Why did you become a reader?

Here’s a post for you, the people who read my blog. I assume most of you come here because you read books. (If you don’t read books, well you can tell us why too).

So what I want to know is this: what started you on that road? At what age did you become a reader for life? Were there times when you didn’t read? Were you the odd one out in the family?

My mother read to me all the time before I could read for myself. I expect I also nagged my sister into reading to me too, although I don’t actually remember that.

I was a dedicated reader from the moment I learned how to read for myself, which was about five. I read passionately in spite of a lack of reading material (compared to what is available to kids nowadays) and have never stopped. If I had nothing to read as a child, I re-read and re-read. I read adult books as soon as I have the vocabulary for them, or even before I had the vocabulary for them. I borrowed books. I read my sister’s books from the university library when I was still in primary school.

At five years old I missed the school bus stop (on a public bus) because I was reading Millie Mollie Mandy and the headmaster had to come hunting for me (he was the only teacher with a car).

At primary school the library was a single bookcase in each classroom and we were permitted to borrow one book a week. I nagged my friends into letting me read their borrowed books so I could get my hands on more than one book a week.

Why? Because there were only two forms of entertainment on the farm: books and one’s imagination. Oh, and kindergarten of the air on ABC radio. My siblings were at school long before I was even a twinkle in my dad’s eye. Neighbours were a long way off and play groups were unheard of.

The default for me was books.

So what about you?


Why did you become a reader? — 19 Comments

  1. I've always been a reader. My parents read to me when I didn't know how to – every night in the least, usually a bit every afternoon as well. As soon as I could read by myself I was off like a shot.

    My Dad still reads a few books a week even though his eyes are failing. Mum's presents to me are ALWAYS books.

    There's never been a time I haven't read. If I don't read before sleep I find it hard to relax. I have three bookshelves in my room alone (one that takes up a whole wall, another 'display' kinda bookshelf, and then one that's part of my desk beside my bed that holds all the books I've bought that I haven't read yet (71).

    OH MY GOODNESS, MILLY MOLLY MANDY. That was my absolute favourite. I've bought two copies since because I wrecked them from re-re-re-reading hundreds of times (though I'm so careful with my books) and still have a nice hardcover copy in one of my bookcases.

    Books are always my favourite thing. I hope to be a published author someday, so I can be part of that same happiness people get from discovering a new book to love.

  2. Me too. Milly Molly Mandy and Enid Blyton galore! I've been reading since I was three and haven't stopped in the intervening 60-odd years!

  3. I've always read, I can't remember my parents reading to me, but I know I could read before I started primary school.

    I always had my nose stuck in a book, I can remember finding Lady Chatterley's Lover on the bookshelf and reading it (but not understanding too much of it) at age 12.

    Reading is a kind of escape for me, transporting me into many different worlds, some good, some not so good, but always interesting.

  4. This isn't going to be particularly coherent, I think, the question has got my mind gushing! I'll do my best not to stream-of-thought too much, but you have been warned 😉
    I started reading early, but not so much books. I think that was mostly because I was so busy helping my mum with my three slightly younger sisters.
    Home life was difficult for various reasons.
    Looking back, my chronic fatigue syndrome issues and the time I really discovered reading, at about 7, coincided. I don't think it's a coincidence. (And I don't think those two words should go together so closely, but I can't think of any better!)
    It was also about the time that maths began to make sense to me as well. It's like my body stepped down a gear, and my mind stepped up (except my short term memory always was bad and still is).
    Reading wasn't just fun, it was an escape. It was something I could do even when I was tired, without being criticised for sitting around doing nothing or for not playing with my sisters(over 20 years later, and after diagnosis, my family still don't understand that I don't choose to be quiet, I have to be if I want to manage anything I do want to do).
    Even before i was a "reader" I had a love of words, imaginitive stories, and the (picture) art that often comes with children's stories. As a result, when I can afford (and find) it, I collect the children's books I loved so much. I also re-read them – they paint pictures in words so vividly. I think children's books are also what gave me my love of history.
    Roald Dahl and CS Lewis introduced me to fantasy – as soon as my Dad saw me reading Narnia, he was giving me The Hobbit…and it all went from there.

  5. I can't remember not being able to read, apparently I could read when I was tiny and would amaze people on the bus or tram by reading the ads. I read every day, I ahve to read with breakfast, I read at my computer and in bed and on the couch and even at long traffic light waits!! I read all the books in our small library at school and then my dad took me to the Town Library and then when I was ten he asked them to give me an adult card so I could borrow ten books at once instead of three- and then ask to be taken into town all week!! My love of reading has been with me all my life and I think I am lucky to have all my books as friends!!

  6. My mum was the same. Either playing outside or reading. No tv, no phone, no electricity.

    As for me. I was read to and once I managed to read to myself I haven't looked back. I love stories and maybe that's why I'm working on my own. To give back.


  7. My parents always had books in the house and I taught myself to read before I went to school. I was so disappointed when I discovered my first school reading book was supposed to last the year. I had read it all the night I brought it home.
    A lending library opened nearby when I was seven but they would only let you borrow two books a fortnight so most of the time I was stuck with magazines, the encyclopaedia and dictionary. When I was ten or eleven my parents persuaded the librarian to give me an adult card. I was in heaven.
    I was a compulsive reader from the start. Cereal packets would do if there was nothing else.
    I so loved MIlly Molly Mandy too and Enid Blyton although I objected to soppy girls like Anne in the Famous Five letting the boys boss her around all the time.
    I'm still a compulsive reader but, because I'm determined to finish writing these novels, I've currently self imposed a ban on myself on going to the library. Usually I borrow twelve books a fortnight and read them all.

  8. I'm another who has read all her life. I don't remember being read to but assume I must have been. I don't remember a time when I didn't read, my mother was a great reader too so I guess she passed it on. When I was a littlie there was a war going on and I have no recollections of anything much else happening other than reacting to sirens. I do remember Milly Molly Mandy (don't know if I actually read any of that) I certainly read Enid Blyton, but I preferred boys books like Biggles. I remember other series of books but not the titles or authors at this late date in my life. I remember one series having a club called the Lone Pine Club or something similar. My Paternal grandfather used to buy books for both my mother and I and always chose the most wonderful stories, I have no idea how he knew what we would like because we didn't see much of him. My father was a big reader too, but as he was away during the war, I am assuming my mother's reading habits were the biggest influence on me. I just remembered, my favourite book was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (sp) I didn't come across Narnia until I was an adult by which time I had already read some of C.S. Lewis' other books. Lewis Caroll was another big favourite, introduced to me by my father. Not just the Alice stories but lots of other stories too – I still have his Complete Works. Poetry was a favourite of mine as well, I used to write poems as well as read them and I remember reading the Oxford Book of English Verse from cover to cover although I couldn't really understand some of the olde English.

  9. By the way Glenda, I meant to say I think you are lagging behind *g*. I watched an interview with Danielle Steele yesterday, she has written 79 books and had 9 kids. What have you been wasting your time on? LOL. I have never read anything of hers. Not my cuppa tea I don't think.

  10. Am another life-long reader – was reading by age of five, along with all my family. Reading was highly valued in our household – Dad had (still has) an incredible book collection, and we all had masses of books in our bedrooms. It's the reason I think my youngest brother learnt to read at a fairly natural pace, even though he had massive eye problems and learning disabilities that weren't diagnosed until he was in late primary school. The testers were amazed he'd learnt to read, but in his mind there was no other option but to read – everyone else did it 🙂 Maths, however…

    A few years ago, I had major issues with reading – my husband is a non-reader and didn't really like me reading at night and so I lost the taste for it. Last year I decided to get it back and it's taken about 18 months, but I'm consuming books again and I'll never allow it to go away again.

  11. I was living in an almost farm and i didn't Want to read at all at first, i used to prefer watching ants or draw. Once i was 4 year old and i was really always asking about everything written on soda bottles, My mum she said i would be able to Know all i wanted if i was able to read: here is the first sparkle! When i was 18 i was reading 3 Books in a weekend. Anything was good. Then the university has been a Golden mountain and finally the web was a révolution . The last 4 years i didn't read a lot of books, as Many stories are fascinating in many vidéo games. I'm reading less and i'm taking More Time to chose. I'm quickly borred with books which is surprising to me. of course not with your Books Glenda !

  12. I didn't really have a reason for starting… one day I noticed a book called The Hobbit on a bookshelf in my house, picked it up, and started reading. Never stopped reading books since then. I must've been around 11 or 12.

    It helps that my family is a family of readers. My brother reads sci-fi, thrillers, and the occasional fantasy novel. My dad reads historical accounts, biographies, and other forms of nonfiction works. My mom reads works of fiction from authors such as Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini. I read fantasy novels and the occasional nonfiction work, particularly stuff about religion, human rights, and such.

    My dad always said to me that when it comes to books, money is not an issue. I'm fortunate to be able to afford to buy one up to a few books a week. It's a privilege that I've never wasted.

    When I started school in the USA a few years ago, I decided that I wouldn't hoard my books. I would keep a few favorites, but the rest would go to friends or were donated. I told my friends that once they're done with the books, they should think about passing the books on or donating them. I've been doing it every several months since then.

    I'm so glad that I picked up reading. I don't really do it only to pass time or to take me away to fantasy world. Instead, I just really love reading the stories and worlds that people come up with, learning about the characters who inhabit these constructions, and finding out What Happens Next.

    The best thing I think I got from all the reading, and that I am still getting each day: I've learned how to put myself in other people's shoes.

  13. Loving all these comments!

    The thing that surprises me most is that there is only one person who started reading relatively late. With the rest of us, it seems it was a race between which was going to happen first – school, or us learning how to read as a pleasurable activity.

    Interesting too how often the word "escape" comes up! I like Hisham's comment that reading puts you in another person's shoes. Absolutely!

    I also loved boys' books. I think that was largely because girls' books were so blah. And so remote from my experience or interests. I didn't mind girls' books that were historical – like Little Women, which I read when I was eight, but I loathed a lot of the more modern girlie stuff that didn't have enough action.

    I went though all the Biggles books (I had an older brother!) but I now suspect they were horribly racist, sexist things. So of course were the Blyton books. The funny thing is that I don't think that side of those 40s and 50s books had much impact on me, at least not when it came to racism. I was more inclined to follow my family's attitudes and logic than racist idiocy.

    The sexism though, left its impact, I feel sure, in lots of subtle ways. As I grew up, I was exasperated at being a girl rather than thinking 'I can do anything!' In other words I accepted the status quo with bad grace, rather than deciding to fight it.

  14. Well, I wouldn't say I've always been a reader. When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated with detective stories and fairy tales. As I entered the 'era' of teen age, fantasy and science fiction began to play a significant role in my life. After indulging in the Harry Potter series, the Inheritance Cycle spurred me further. Then I began 'worshipping' J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis for their brilliant story-telling and fantasy realms. These two literary professors had inspired me to continue my passion as a teenage writer. I absolutely love story books in the fantasy genre, as I love to day-dream and fantasize about my own imaginary realms where all things are possible. Now, my short stories have been published in the newspaper for the third time, and I could never have did it without the magic of fantasy. For me, it is not about how early you started to love books, but about how you love the magic in story-telling, regardless of age and gender.

  15. I was not much of a reader growing up. Oh, I liked my pick a path reads when I did read. But I was one to do more outside. We would run around the woods and at my grandparents farm making up our own worlds and happenings.

    But, I started really reading when I got laid off from my full time (way full time) job. I was use to always doing work and bringing work home that I needed something to do, hence the reading to occupy my time. This was… 3 1/2 years ago. I have not been able to stop since.

    I am not the one of the family that stuck out. Actually, my brother was. But when I started reading more, he was the one I turned to. Now he is to busy to get much reading in and I have taken over the pages. 🙂 But in talking with my brother at our parents house, my mom is also a book lover. Things you learn when you start talking. I never really noticed it before, as she was always trying to be a working single mom.

    But, I also read to my son when he was younger – every night. I am hoping he will pick up on the reading thing too. Not as much now, but he does have his own book shelves to add to. 🙂

    But, I have not missed any buses to school because of reading. 🙂 I loved that. I don't know if my mom would have been happy or upset with me. 🙂

  16. I come from a family of readers; my father, who did not finish Primary school, would read 2-3 books a week, and him and my mother would read to us as kids.

    Once I could read, I attacked the family library which was full of works such as Spanish and Latin American fiction, biographies, and historical non-fiction.

    As a 7-8 year old, I had to have some dental treatment and each time we'd go to the city for it, my mother would reward me with a visit to the largest book-store there was in CR then, where I could choose a book.

    While on primary school, I'd exchange books with one of my best friends who was also a keen reader, so we both enjoyed Treasure Island, Travels of Marco Polo, many of Jules Verne novels, and we even got some Enid Blyton.

    All of this was in Spanish (my mother tongue).

    As a teenager, I got hooked on the Latin American writers: Rómulo Gallegos, Gabriel García Márques, Vargas Llosa, Carpentier, but I also took up the challenge of reading a book in English; I finally managed to do it with Morris West's "The Shoes of the Fisherman", although it took quite a few trips to the dictionary!

    My family keeps their passion for reading and we usually take advantage of our large network to share books with siblings and cousins. Being away from Costa Rica has not stopped this traffic, but makes it a little more complicated.

    When reading, I usually become disconnected (escape, Glenda?). During our sailing years, I'd have to set a timer during my watches to remind me of looking around while I was engrossed in my book.

    Books are a treasure!

  17. Ligia – your dad reminds me of my grandfather. He didn't go to school at all (too far) – in fact he was born on an island owned by my family – but had a ticket-of-leave man (a convict) teach him and his siblings at home.

    Thereafter he read widely and deeply for the rest of his life.

    Mel and Han Ming, nice to see that people can come to reading late and still end up just as passionate as the early starters!

    I notice my grandson loved being read too until he hit 5. Then he seemed more interested in playing out in the street with his friends than being read to. And he is not interested in learning how to read himself, although he seems to understand such a lot of words anyway. I think he is learning by osmosis.

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