In the middle of pursuing my master’s degree and teaching full-time, I received a writing challenge that wouldn’t wait. The writing invited me to think about something important and at the same time allowed me to ignore my responsibilities. You’ll notice that a couple of ‘things about me as a reader’ are incredibly time specific to the writing. No matter… I’m a reader. a writer. a learner. a teacher. it’s What I do.
30 Things about Me as a Reader
1. I learned to read with Dick & Jane. Then, in 2nd grade we had to endure this thing called the ‘reading machine’ – a simple short story projected onto a screen, one line at a time. We always had to wait until every kid in the class had read the line. I grew tired of waiting on Rodney. He was a ‘slow reader;’ but I just thought he was trying to frustrate me by making me wait.
2. In rural America, we were, I suppose, truly fortunate to have a public library in our small town. It was one not-very-big room, with bookshelves along three of its four walls. There, I discovered Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. She complemented my adoration of Trixie Belden. I determined that I would be a mystery solver one day – just as soon as I could put my books down.
3. Luckily for me, my sister was a reader too. Almost eight years older, she acquired paper backs by Betty Smith – Joy in the Morning and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the somehow poignant teen stories by Betty Cavanna – what’s up with authors named Betty? And Mrs. Mike – who made me want to marry a Canadian Mountie. I think I read Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones so many times the pages started falling out. I loved reading my sister’s books – it felt a little sneaky and forbidden, even though it wasn’t.
4. A Lantern in Her Hand – another of my sister’s paperbacks, now proudly in place on a bookshelf in my bedroom – this prairie story stirred my appreciation of farm life. I didn’t want to ever complain about being a farmer’s daughter in the ease of the twentieth century.
5. And then there was Little House on the Prairie. I remember talking to my friend Lisa about the Ingalls Wilder books, and how we both thought The Longest Winter should have been the shortest book, due to its dull repetition. But then, we lived in North Dakota – we LIVED the longest winters, every year.
6. Felix Salter’s Bambi. How could anyone ever prefer Disney’s version?
7. Sterling North wrote Rascal, and I wanted a raccoon for a pet. Wilson Rawls wrote Where the Red Fern Grows, and I cried while I went outside to be with my dog and cats.
8. I read the diary my sister kept when she was in sixth grade about the time she was a senior in high school. My favorite parts were the sections that included references to me. It’s wonderful to see one’s name in print.
9. Every time I read Heidi, I wanted grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or as a snack.
10. I loved summer times for the opportunity to read during the day, and late into the night. Late night reading with a big bowl of popcorn still remains a cherished activity that I started when I was around ten. I don’t know why the two go together so well, but they do.
11. In high school, I checked out Serpico because a boy I liked had checked it out – I liked the look of our names on the card, first his, then mine. That was a dumb reason to pick a book as it turns out. Thereafter, I determined to read books for me, not to impress anybody else.
12. Why do English teachers ruin good books? Irony of ironies, I became an English teacher.
13. I didn’t meet Dickens until college. Hard Times were figurative and literal during that semester of Victorian Lit.
14. Chaucer in Middle English remains one of my finest accomplishments as an English major. I don’t think I ever worked harder for an ‘A.’ There’s something to be said for parsing a language.
15. I didn’t marry a reader. I always thought that everyone who is anyone reads. Not so. My college roommate and best friend didn’t like it. My husband’s most remembered book is Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. He patiently indulges my need to read favorite passages of beloved books out loud.
16. Best suggestion ever: find a life-long author to explore, share, re-read – a writer with whom I can grow old. My choice? C.S. Lewis. Simply the best.
17. I hate reading text messages that aren’t written in full text. r is a letter, not a word. I think this signals the breakdown of civilized society.
18. Reading to my three sons after lunch every day made me love children’s books again. Even better: the first time they read a beloved selection to me.
19. Here’s a thing I positively hate: presenters who read power point slides word for word, and this, the sum total of their presentation. Why don’t they just mail a handout?
20. I love reading dictionaries.
21. Reading on a machine (remember, I had 2nd grade trauma) seems just wrong somehow. Kindles, ipads? I need the smell of the paper and ink.
22. The best stories are always reflections of His story.
23. Writers have the final word. Until someone reads it.
24. I must be a new historicist. How can time period and authorship NOT matter? “Only the reader can make meaning” feels a bit like ‘if a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it, …’
25. When I have a book, I am never really alone.
26. Finishing a great book leaves me slightly empty. I read at a frenetic pace only to slow down and almost avoid its inevitable final page. The jolt back to my own reality stuns, every time. I begin looking for a new title immediately.
27. I like buying books and stacking them into my ‘must read’ pile. I need to know that they’re there, waiting.
28. I am presently in a room filled with 18 students, who eagerly anticipate our reading Fridays. They choose what they read. In the last eight weeks, 54 students logged over 1000 hours of reading time. I would be reading if I weren’t writing about being a reader, so that someone else can read it.
29. I am currently reading two Shakespeare plays, a brief biography of C.S. Lewis, The Awakening, and The Rumplestiltskin Problem. Good times.
30. Reading. Don’t you wish everybody did?