I don’t remember a time without books. They were a part of my day, every day, stretching back into memory. In this photo I am reading to my brother, two years younger than me. Since he looks about two in this photo, I was reading this to him before I started school — probably as a four-year old. I don’t know if I was telling the actual story from words, or had memorized it, or was guessing from the photos, but the important thing is that at a very young age I understood that there were exciting stories in books, and that reading unlocked those stories for us.
Once school started we had assignments – to read a new book every day. I continually worked my way through the libraries at home and at school, and of course at our public library where we proudly held our own library cards as soon as we were old enough to write our names. I remember many times when I was engrossed in a book and my parents had to get my attention to come eat supper, because I didn’t hear anything while I was reading a story.
I could only do that because my parents read to me. Reading before bed was a frequent ritual even after we were readers. Mom would choose something above our reading level and continually challenge us with that content. Some of these were Bible stories, some were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, which were a great way for kids to hear classics before we were ready for the full dose.
When we were ready for the full dose, the classic books were already old friends.
My family treasured books. I remember my first hardback books — Yertle the Turtle and Little Women. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always found ways to have lots of books, of all different genres, on our shelves in the living room, the bedrooms, the family rooms.
We did have television, even though these vintage photos don’t make that obvious. We enjoyed a few shows. But mostly our imagination was stoked by what we read. And we never stopped reading. My brother has a memory that lets him remember everything he has ever read. I don’t have that same memory, so I even re-read my favorites from time to time.
I copied this same technique with my own daughter, who is also an avid reader in adulthood.