Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How I Became A Reader - by Louise Tripp

It is said that reading to a child promotes motivation and a love for stories, reading and learning and is a bonding experience. I agree with this position wholeheartedly because I am living proof. I've been fervently reading and writing since I was a wee child, “knee-high to a duck” as my mother used to say, thanks in part to the storytelling habits of my mom and my older sibling.

As you can guess, books have been a huge part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Even before I could read, my sister would tell me Pippi Longstocking stories to coax me to sleep (for the longest time, I though she made them up herself). My mother was still my favorite storyteller, though. I loved my mom's voice – the way she read with different inflections for different characters. Nearly every night for a fair portion of my childhood, I begged her to read Puff, The Magic Dragon cover to cover (she always relented, or else made my sister read it).

By age five, long before anyone else in my kindergarten class, I could read – and well – and, for probably the only time in my life, loved to be called on in class to do so (unusual for such a reticent child). At six, I started the children's abridged edition of Oliver Twist and was completely enthralled, but before I could finish it, my three year old brother ripped the book to shreds (no vindictively, of course - he was only a toddler, after all) and left it for me to find. To this day, censorship and the destruction of books still makes me irate (don't even get me started on Amy March!) and I often wonder if this extreme passion can be traced back to this instance.

In fourth grade, I remember getting my first Sweet Valley Twins book at the school book fair, along with a copy of The Baby-Sitter's Club's series opener Kristy's Great Idea (I loved the way the characters looked on the cover) and the first book of the Sleepover Friends series (ditto; and was that a poster of Corey Hart?!). I think these books pretty much sealed the deal that I was going to be a reader for life. From that point forward, I was obsessed. That next Christmas, my mother bought me every Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins book she found at the nearest Waldenbooks, in Chesapeake, Virginia, along with a couple of Baby-Sitter's Club books, Marilyn Sachs' Amy & Laura and Sylvia Cassady's Behind The Attic Wall. It remains the best holiday I've had so far – and that's after thirty-three years.

Occasionally, trips to our family doctor also led to bookstore excursions and once I even got my mom to buy me The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell at Farm Fresh, a local grocery store, of all places. After my brother, following in my footsteps, became an avid reader as well, my dad put his foot down in regards to book-buying: money was tight! We needed clothes and food, not books! So in response, my mom marched us to the local library and got us library cards.

That's where my addiction was fed and libraries became as comfortable to me as home, which makes it especially lucky that I work in one.

In my life, there are other little book-related biographical facts: in the sixth grade, I became a master at navigating the way from class to class with book in hand (something that, today, would likely cause me injury). And one year at a school Christmas party, my “secret Santa” even gave me a book – so clearly, my fanaticism had not gone unnoticed.

These days, I still read whenever I can – though I balance my habit with writing, work (at the aforementioned library), etc. - and I still read all kinds of books, though it should be no surprise that stories featuring youthful characters are still closest to my heart.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at http://risktoblossom.blogspot.com.

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