What made you a reader?

Hello, friends. This week, a local journalist, Hollie Pratt Campbell, interviewed me. In the course of our conversation, Hollie said that while she now reads mostly adult books, it was Young Adult fiction that made her a reader; that really stirred her love of books, as a younger reader.

I was thinking about why that’s the case, and I suspect it’s to do with the importance of story in young people’s lit. Young readers don’t read primarily for gorgeous prose, elaborate narrative structure, or postmodern wit. (Which is not to say that they don’t appreciate all those things; they can be sophisticated readers.) But before all else, they want a fully developed story with complex characters and a conflict that gets resolved.

There’s a purity to writing for kids that’s incredibly satisfying, precisely because of these elements. As an adult, I too enjoy the quest. I want to solve the problem; I long to overcome the challenge. When life is messy and ambiguous, it’s a relief to pull things together neatly in a plot.

The plot, however, is just the hook. What remains for me are the characters and their specific struggles. If I think about the books that made me a reader, I think of the Murry family, in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet – loving, often separated, intrepid. Emily Starr, the idealistic, lonely, aspiring writer created by L. M Montgomery. Even the Naughtiest Girl, a spoiled brat who’s determined to be expelled from her boarding school, yet comes to belong there (it’s a series by Enid Blyton).

What do you read for – plot, characters, something else? And what are the books that made you a reader?

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7 Responses to “What made you a reader?”

  1. Kate says:

    When I was six, I refused to read for school because none of the other kids could read sentences. My teacher told my mother she knew I could read, because I read signs and stuff, but I wouldn’t do it. Mum came home, woke me up, and asked me what book I wanted to read. I told her I wanted to read Heidi, so she got it out from the library and told me I could take over whenever I wanted to. It took me three paragraphs, and then I read her the book.

  2. JaneE says:

    Reading books is almost like breathing for me. Books are like my friends- every one has a different story, different memories attached to it. My old weather-beaten copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ was passed on to me from my mom; I read ‘The Body At The Tower’ during my first re-enacting excursion this summer. :D Also, I am a firm believer in what Francis Bacon said about books: Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. I read voraciously looking for the next book to make me love it. My mom exposed me to really strong literature from a young age, so I tend to lean towards the classics and historical fiction more then anything else. I always thought that my favourite books would be the ones with horses or dancing, but it’s the most unexpected ones that I like the best. So I guess it’s not really plot or anything that I read for, it’s just that I consider them to be friends….if that’s not too odd :P

    I think that the book that really made me read a lot was Jane Eyre…it’s my mom’s favourite book, and she really encouraged me to wait until I was old enough until I read it…we read it together when I was 13, and it surpassed all expectations! :) What’s the book that made you a reader, if you don’t mind sharing?

  3. Ying says:

    That’s a good story, Kate! Did your mother teach you to read formally, or did you pick it up on your own? And JaneE, it’s not at all odd to think of books as friends. I reach for a favourite book to meet an emotional need; it’s not that different from phoning a friend, really. And I love that your mother was with you all the way in your reading journey. I don’t have a single book that made me a reader – I was trying to think of it as I wrote this post – but it was definitely some blend of L. M. Montgomery, Madeleine L’Engle, and Enid Blyton. I have blissful memories of reading in the sunroom when I was about 7. I’d have slept there, if allowed.

  4. rayray says:

    i started reading because mommy said that if i read the book Eragon then she would let me see the movie in the theaters. (We were in the mall and there were big Eragon movie posters hung up.) after that i started reading for fun, instead of because i had to for school.

    ps. Guess what????!!!!!This morning i went to the eighth grade honors breakfast and the principal told our parents that they should buy us something that we have been wanting. Then like 10 minutes ago my dad told me that he per-orderd The Traitor in the Tunnel!!!!!He knew i wanted it because ive been beging him to pre-order it for me since like this summer.
    :)

  5. Guneet says:

    I started reading ever since I was in kindergarden. Our teacher would read to us every evening and I would wait the whole day just for thst. My most favourite book as a child was Big Sarah’s Little Boots. That was the only book I woul take out when I went to the library. Later on, without my teachers recommending me to read I started reading chapter books by grade one. Now, I basically cannot live without books. People say they can’t live without their iPods, facebook, etc. but it’s books for me. I am a bookworm. What’s your favorite genre of books?

  6. Mara A. says:

    I read for everything: plot, characters, being surprised by endings, dramatic deaths, happily-ever-afters, writing styles, witty phrases, ect. Mostly, I think, I read for characters and writing style. I didn’t really have anyone to play with when I was little, so I was attracted to fictional characters as friends, and for some reason I was always very tuned into writing style even when I was little. That’s why I loved so many fairy tales – I loved the old style they were told in. What made me a Reader, I’m not sure, because I always loved books and stories. The only reason I was reluctant to read on my own at first is because I didn’t want my parents to stop reading to me, but then I discovered how much nicer it was to read to oneself – and have the ability to read aloud to others – and my mom could never get me out of a book after that.

  7. Ying says:

    That’s so funny, rayray, that a movie turned you into a reader! And HURRAY for awesome dads! Guneet, I tend to read literary fiction, but I’m also a sucker for mysteries and thrillers. And I read less poetry now than I used to, but I want to read more. Mara, that is such a sweet story about not wanting your parents to stop reading to you; I’m sure they didn’t! My kids will have to ask me directly before I stop reading to them.

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