I don’t remember learning how to read. I know that I was reading before my fourth birthday – and have vague memories of being impatient with “age appropriate” books when I was in pre-school – but don’t remember if it was my dad who taught me how or if it was just something I was determined to pick up on my own.
It wasn’t just the books I was impatient with, but with pre-school in general. I wanted more time to read, but was instead encouraged to (ugh) spend time OUTSIDE. And INTERACTING. I have never had the greatest social skills. This was particularly evident the time I smacked a girl in the face because she’d stolen my jacket that had the book I was reading in the pocket…only to later find out that we just had the same jacket.
In kindergarten, I was so proud when Mrs Heck (yes, really) asked me daily to read aloud to my class at naptime. I later found out that when I was reading a chapter of Chocolate Fever to my classmates, Mrs Heck was outside having a smoke break. I could be upset about this, but I can totally understand.
Heh, Chocolate Fever. Did you all read that, too?
In the first grade I was tested for the GATE program, and was told that my reading and comprehension were already at a college level. In addition to having to switch classrooms to go with the other GATE kids (it was 3 grades in one class because there weren’t enough smart kids in the school to have individual classes for each grade), I had to visit the 6th grade GATE class during Reading and Language classes every day. Luckily, I was always tall for my age, so I wasn’t this tiny little kid being sent to hang out with the 11 year olds for half the morning, but when you’re six, even when you’re in a class with the other “smart kids” this can kind of do a number on you.
I had a difficult time making friends, and (again) had no interest in playing Thundercats during recess, so I spent most of my days hiding in the library, or just sitting next to my classroom door with whatever book I was reading at the time.
In early elementary school, I was in love with the work of Edward Eager and I tore through Nancy Drews like nobody’s business. These were easy reads, and I had no problem burning through two or three in a day (especially during vacations when I could just READ AND READ FOREVER!). In the 4th grade, my uncle gave me my first two Stephen King novels (I talked about that a little here), and for a while, I read as much of Unky Steve’s work as I could get my hands on.
I added Tolkien and Diane Duane to my list of favourites and discovered that fantasy was my first true love, as it provided me with the biggest escape. I didn’t like reading about things that too closely resembled my own reality, so I stuck with things I knew weren’t really real.
Late elementary school/junior high also rekindled my love for faerie tales. By the time I was 13, I’d collected nearly all of Lang’s Colour Faerie books and was moving on to re-tellings/re-imaginings. I found a copy of Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer at a yard sale, I read and re-read those stories (but when I tried to re-read it last year, I lost my patience with them and gave up after only reading two or three).
THEN! Towards the end of junior high, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at my teeny tiny two room local library in the summers. I jumped at the chance because I got to spend 3 days a week sitting behind the actual desk and reading the whole day away. The librarian (who was also a volunteer, tiny town, no money for a real library) would leave me there alone and go pick up the ILLs or…I don’t know, I’m pretty sure she frequently went to hang out at the General Store (go ahead and laugh) to have ice cream or whatever, since someone else was holding the fort.
I didn’t care what she was doing, it was just the best being able to be surrounded by books and pick whatever I wanted off the shelves to lose myself in.
That was when I discovered sf, and when I found a lot of the books and authors that are still my favourites today. PKD, Fredric Brown, Douglas Adams (actually, I have a different story about my introduction to The Guide, which you can read here if you’re interested) – my science fiction roots may have been planted in Star Wars soil, but the pulpy greats of the 50s and 60s were (and still are) some of the best Imagination MiracleGro I’ve ever encountered.
I still primarily read fantasy and sf. I occasionally branch out into other genres, but I’m not an adventurous sort at all when it comes to the books I choose.
I still read to escape, and because I slip into books to get away from the things that are making me mad/sad/angry/frustrated, I know I am not as well-read as many of my contemporaries. Heh. Yeah, I read a lot, but I’m not well-read. That’s my new catch phrase.