My Life as a Reader...

I remember reading Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go on my dad's lap with my brother. Dad would point to a word and if we guessed it right we'd get a sooper smooch. If we guessed it wrong he'd squeeze our feet 'til it hurt. Just a little.

I got to watch the first season of Sesame Street before I started kindergarten. I also loved the Electric Company, which came on after school starting when I was in 1st grade. Especially the "r... ead... read!" segment.

I remember the first time I realized I could read silently, in my head, without speaking the words. An "a-ha!" moment that showed me the power of thought.

The first "chapter book" I read by myself was Matilda, a book about a cat having babies. Then my own cat had babies. B is for Betsy was my first series.

In kindergarten, I tested at a 3rd grade reading level, so my teacher let me go to the school library alone at library time. In first grade, I went to the school library at library time and my angry (distraught?) teacher sent me to the principal.

In sixth grade, my friend Cathy and I spent our recess time looking for entrances to Narnia.

In junior high, I had a reading elective. I'd check out a book during 8th period each day and read it throughout the school day, annoying all of my other teachers. Especially when I could still answer all their questions. But during those years I was a lonely latchkey kid, so those books were my best friends.

I had a vague awareness at that time of how much books had given me. And the inkling of an idea to write one of my own some day, to give something back. A feeling that lingers to this day.

I couldn't decide which college to go to until I found one that was entirely based on reading. I met the "Great Books." When I got there I realized how hard reading can be. First you have to read something. Then you have to try to understand what the author is saying. Then, and only then, should you form your own opinion. It's easier to jump right to step three. Or just read easy books.

What a treat it was, then, to have a child! I got to re-read all my favorite books out loud, meet all my old friends again, make some new ones. Again, that idea haunts me: Give something back.

I realized, in my late thirties, that nothing makes me happier than writing. Well, almost nothing. The books, they do stack up.