I am a HUMONGOUS reader. I have no idea how many books I own. I don't want to think about how much money I have spent on books in my lifetime.
As mentioned before I do not only read books once. I read them over and over and over again. I consider books to be personal friends, and favourite characters to be members of my family. I have a pile of books next to my bed that is level with my bedside table. I am a compulsive bibliophile. I do not own a kindle. I understand why people may buy them...easier to carry than a book etc. But to me, reading a book is a sensory experience. The feel and sound of the paper as I turn the pages. The smell of the book as I hold it. The pictures in my head as I follow the action. I even have soundtracks to some books that some back to me years after I carelessly read the book whilst listening to music.
I cannot imagine not enjoying reading. I cannot imagine finding reading a chore. But I know people for whom books are mere words on a page. People who do not like reading, who do not see the action as they read about it...who essentially do not enjoy the act of reading. I have taught a few of these people.
I found that there were a couple of series in the last 10 years or so that made non-readers or reluctant readers take up a tome or two. Harry Potter was one, Twilight was another. The literary merits of both series are disputed, but was is undisputed is the effect on adolescent reading habits.
Teens are reading more. They are trying new authors. They are even reading their school English texts. This can only be good. It broadens their cultural horizons...gives them a larger sense of the "other"...a greater ability to engage with different kinds of people. It helps them to communicate with each other, with people of other backgrounds and generations. There are so many benefits from reading.
How did I become such a big reader? How did I become someone who could devour a Harry Potter book in a single sitting?
Well it wasn't an easy road for those who helped me to get there. It involved (and still involves) copious hours of reading aloud for my mother, father, grandparents and (now) Luke. I LOVE being read to. It was one of the highlights of my day when Dad would come and read to me before bed each night. I used to beg for the same stories over and over again. My grandmother could probably recite "The Enchanted Wood" by the end of my childhood. Luke and I read to each other all the time (it's part of our bonding time).
But there is more to it than that. It comes back to losing an older sibling at a very young age. The silences were deafening for my mother. So she read to me for hours each day to fill up the silences that used to be filled by chatter and laughter and games. It was such a feature of my childhood existence that I cannot imagine not loving being read to, and loving stories and language and characters.
But if I had not lost her, who would I be? I may not have been read to nearly as much. I may have grown up not loving being read to...not loving stories and the closeness that sharing them with someone else brings. Who would I be then? I may not have loved English so much that I chose teaching as a career. I may not have had so much in common with Luke... Scary thoughts.
Many books and authors shaped my childhood and literary path.
Enid Blyton was a favourite author. I still re-read the Famous Five series every so often, and still love the unedited versions of the Faraway Tree books.
L.M. Montgomery introduced me to two literary heroines: Anne Shirley and Emily Byrd Starr. These fiery women taught me to chase ambitions and not take no for an answer. The language in these novels gave me a true love of a great descriptive passage.
David Eddings introduced me to the world of fantasy writing; to wizards and knights and swords and writing in High Style. Through him I came to find dozens of other authors, other worlds to explore.
Mary Grant Bruce is the only Australian author I truly enjoy reading. But I can revisit Norah Linton frequently, learning about graceful womanhood and true mateship.
Dylan Thomas introduced me to the amazing world of radio plays. I carry a debt to my HSC English teacher who insisted that our class study "Under Milk Wood" instead of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". It became one of my all time favourite plays and opened me up to a whole world of sounds. Words don't even have to be true words to be intelligible and evocative.
That should about cover it. But again the question remains... Would I have loved these books and authors if not for those deafening silences that were crying out to be filled?