This summer, I’ve been reading a lot between independent reading, reading for school, reading for Bartleby Snopes, and keeping Baby Lawn Literature alive. With all the reading and writing I’ve done this summer, I wondered about other writers reading history and the relationships between reading and writer, the inspiration behind this piece. Now I will share my own reading history.
Foremost, I am a promiscuous reader,when it comes to being a voracious reader (what is ostensibly the ultimate reader), I am like the voracious eater who has so much food on their table and jumps between so many plates, that a good deal of them are unfinished.
When you think of a reader, do you imagine someone who learned to read before they even went to kindergarten? Who always enjoyed reading beyond anything else? I do, and it is why I feel at odds with identifying myself as a literary citizen. I didn’t learn to read until I was seven. I had to go to summer school between first and second grade to improve my reading, but I was bullied in kindergarten for taking books to school. Before I could read, I liked looking at the illustrations in picture books and creating stories from the pictures, it was a helpful exercise when my second-grade teacher introduced a gray index card box filled with black and white pictures that were meant to serve as writing prompts.
During free time, when we had the choice of what educational activity we wanted to take on, I went to the box and wrote. When my mom went to the parent-teacher conference that year, my teacher told my mother about my writing, commenting it, while I was in the hallway reading Disney books that came from a box that produced music when you opened it. All of this less than a year after going to summer school for reading.
When I was ten I became a serious reader, the least promiscuous I had ever been in my reading, I had taken to Andrew Clements, reading a book quickly (they were pretty short though) and after deciding I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I decided I would be a writer, and when I read Clements The School Story, I decided to be a writer, realizing there wasn’t some age limit for being a writer. Wanting to become a writer made me more serious about reading, and so I cannot be sure if I am more of a reader or a writer. Though I know that when I read I feel compelled to write, but I’ve taken to annotating as a way to quell the compulsion.
I also had my bouts of reluctance. I was a reluctant reader in third grade when I had my mom sign my the sheet where I recorded what I read, where the times were falsified satisfy the time limits for reading set by the teacher, but even then it was a different book every day. I was also a reluctant reader in seventh grade,trading in literature for teen fashion magazines, it was a time of looking for myself in all the wrong places, because of this, I overextend myself as penance.
My sister was able to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a single day. I was never able to finish a book that takes 18 hours to listen to in a single day, but my research into literacy and ADHD has shown that is to be expected, and I am lucky to have the reading skills that I have. I have been working on different reading strategies, but more on that later.
Another thing to note about the majority of writers, throughout the history of literature, is that they were raised in families that nurtured a love of literature. My family, while criticizing ADHD and denying that I have it, are possible to blame for me having it. My parents had the TV raise me, and most of the bonding, pleasant moments I had with my father were watching movies, the earliest of these memories being Enemy Mine.
I should not see these deviations as damage to my self-image. I worked hard to overcome my reading difficulties, and I would not have worked that fervently if I did not actually care. It is my aim, upon returning to college this Sunday, to read a book a week, while also minding the words of Francine Prose in Reading Like a Writer.
One way to compel yourself to slow down and stop at every word is to ask yourself what sort of information each word—each word choice—is conveying.
Reading with that question in mind. Skimming just won’t suffice if we hope to extract a fraction of what a writer’s words can teach us about how to use the language…