For the Love of Reading
In a conversation recently, someone I know expressed surprise when told that someone they knew in a professional capacity had earned an MFA in poetry. She attributed her surprise to the fact that this person didn’t come from a “literary family.” This is something I’ve long been interested in–if your family (siblings, parents, grandparents) belongs to the “avid readers” category, does that automatically mean that you will be more interested in reading and writing; and, conversely, if your family doesn’t spend a great deal of time reading, does that mean you won’t develop a love of books?
Obviously, parents and children can develop vastly different skills and interests. When I was growing up, my dad watched NASCAR racing on television, while my mom preferred “The Frugal Gourmet.” Does that mean that I like NASCAR and cooking? No, absolutely not. In fact, I don’t particularly like either.
One’s taste in movies, music, art, and books is so complicated and layered that it can’t be attributed solely to one’s genes. Sure, if your parents had a huge library in your house when you were growing up, or encouraged more reading, then perhaps you’re more likely to become a voracious reader. However, though my mom brought me to the library on nearly a weekly basis when I was a kid, my brother came on those trips as well, and while I became someone who reads constantly, my brother would much rather watch a movie or play a video game. Of course, this could be attributed to gender stereotypes, but my gist is–where does a love of reading (or dancing or writing or painting or piano) come from, if not from our genes or our environment?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read. It’s not something that needed to be drilled into me or even actively encouraged. I just did it, even though I was a little bit of a slow starter when I was first learning. I looked forward to our visits to the library, never leaving without a stack of books. I would read in bed, after lights out, by the light from the hallway through my door. Reading and Language were my favorite subjects in school, and I was constantly getting in trouble for reading ahead in the book.
Looking back now, I can’t imagine a life without reading and books. It astounds me that so many people just don’t read. True, we’re all lacking for time in our busy schedules, and I have the luxury of a somewhat lengthy commute on public transportation every day, but I still don’t understand how the majority of Americans read less than a book a year. Of course, I have never played an organized team sport in my life and I can’t even draw a decent stick figure, so I’m willing to say “everyone has their thing.” And my thing is reading.
What’s your “thing”? Did your family encourage your reading habits? Do you remember how you became a reader?