Books that Shaped You Into the Reader You Are Today

Thursday, June 19, 2014

For five years now, I have been working as an English teacher for children from first grade to seventh grade. I have always loved my job and all that comes with it, but I do have to say that one of my favorite things about my profession is when I get to discuss something I know best - books. 
When I start talking about a certain book they're reading or a book they've read, often times, I will see them overcome with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and an eagerness to learn. Their enthusiasm grows even more when they realize that I have actually read those books myself. 

One of my favorite things we do as a class is when we all get to line up outside the corridor and head to the school library. Though it is a small space tucked in the corner of our campus, it's full of shelves and shelves of books. They perk up, smile, and even squeal when we take them to the room, and it's truly a lovely sight to see. When I do see them this way, it always brings me into thinking a lot about the books I myself have read when I was younger and how they have, unknowingly, influenced me in many ways in my life. 

There were books like Ferdinand the Bull that taught me that just because somebody or something looks scary or intimidating, doesn't mean they actually are. There were those books like D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths that started my obsession with Greek mythology. 
Thinking about this is also bringing me back to the books that got me into reading for the sheer fun of it. There were those Nancy Drew editions with the yellow hardback covers that my sister used to read and that I tried so hard to get into. There were the countless The Baby Sitter's Club books I've asked my parents to get for me because I was extremely into each of those characters, and I just really wanted to babysit for a living! Of course, I can't forget to mention the Animorphs series that was the origin for the appreciation I have for red-tailed hawks today.

I do think that there is always that one book that influences readers the most - the one that basically molded you into becoming an avid reader in the first place. For me, those books would be the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I first picked this up when I was 11 years old. I was so immersed in that world and in all those characters. I not only related to them, but I felt invincible while getting to know them and their world. I thought that nothing in this physical world could ever stop me from becoming who I really want to be. If a boy stuck underneath the stairs with his horrible relatives could be a boy wizard, I knew I could accomplish anything if I wanted it. 

I also think there are moments that can shape people. I for one remember a significant moment after finishing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when my grandparents took me and all my cousins to the bookstore. My grandmother told us to get whatever book we wanted. Now this was incredibly exciting for us because we weren't allowed to get books unless we 'deserved' them. Still, my grandparents let us roam freely, to peruse through those shelves, to pick anything we wanted, and to read whatever we wanted. In that moment as a little girl, I remember I imagined and pictured myself as a grown-up, hoping that someday, I would also write a book that would mean something to somebody - at least one person. Perhaps it's that time that started my dream of becoming an educator and a writer. 

All in all, I think it truly is interesting how reading can mean something different to everyone. To many avid readers and literature lovers, it may have started with a book you were read to as a child, or a book you picked up when you were twelve. The bottom line is, it all started somewhere. As an educator today for young children, I would like to think that perhaps one of these books that my students pick up during one of our trips to the library would be one of those books that could start it all for them. 

Tell me what books shaped you into the reader you are today.

13 comments:

  1. Oh heck, I used to have the biggest crush on Tobias from the Animorphs as a kid, especially the TV version! And I couldn't get enough of the Nancy Drew books. I used to love going to my school library - and my local one - and that feeling of anticipation at getting to pick out new things that I'd never read before. I still get it now, a bit, even though I know more about the books I'm choosing now. Sometimes I think it's sad that I lost that 'try anything' frame of mind and now tend to choose books I've heard good things about already. I used to get a special thrill when it came to 'moving up a stage' and shifting into the junior library at school, or up to the teen and adult sections at the library, because suddenly a whole new swathe of shelves and stories were being opened up and I couldn't wait to get started! It was definitely experiences and instincts as much as individual books that made me the 20-something book nerd I am today, I think. :)

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    1. Yes! I had such a huge crush on Tobias as well, and even considered naming my future kid Tobias just because I like that name so much haha. I think that experiences like that also shaped me into the reader I am today as well, but that's another post :)

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  2. I wish that I had a better memory to remember all of the books that I loved as a kid. I do remember reading and loving The Babysitter's Club, but most of all, it was books by RL Stine that I remember the most. The Fear Street Series, especially. I still remember how excited I got when a new book by Stine came out. I loved library days at school, or even more so the Scholastic Fair days. Bringing home that flyer to my mom and being allowed to pick out a few books was so exciting for me.

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    1. RL Stine books were great, but I was never really "allowed" to read those because it would get me nightmares. I wish I experienced the Scholastic book fairs, I didn't grow up in the U.S. so I didn't, but I am experiencing it as a teacher! I would have loved it I think!

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  3. +JMJ+

    I've always been a voracious reader, and I treated juvenile series like Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley as just another food group when I was growing up, but the one book which I credit with opening my eyes to how wonderful literature could be is From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg.

    Reading it also marks the beginning of my bibliomania! Many of the books that I collected before this novel, I have since donated; but the majority of those that I bought afterwards, I still own and treasure. =)

    There is obviously a strong emotional component to many readers' love of Harry Potter, so I feel a little sad that that experience hasn't been mine, too. I've read all the books and I enjoyed the stories . . . but I can't say that I love them. Of course, there are other books that I feel this way about . . . but the catch is that it's really tough to find other fans who feel the same way. I was just talking to a Twilight fan from the Dominican Republic who said that one thing she really loved about Twilight was that you could travel anywhere in the world and find other people who had had meaningful experiences with the series, too. And she wondered what the next "fandom" would be. It doesn't seem to be The Hunger Games!

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    1. I've never read Mrs. Basil but have heard you talk about them before, I love the Sweet Valley series as well!!

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  4. I feel like this is so cliche but one of the very first books I ever remember reading and loving passionately is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. It's the first book that made me see that you could totally invest all of yourself in a book's characters and creatures and it was the first book to make me sob.

    I think more than any one book, the school library shaped me into the reader I am at 31. Every week, I got to go and pick any book I wanted. I always, thankfully, had teachers who let us get books above and below grade level, so I could read widely and passionately, and I'd like to think that's still how I read today.

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    1. Where the Red Fern Grows is fantastic, and definitely an emotional book. Made me cry the first time I read it as well.

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  5. Aww I love this post! There are so many books I read and loved as a kid. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, The Mystery of the Cupboard, Babysitters Club (how great were the special books where they went on a vacation!) and so many others. I love being able to introduce my nieces and nephews to those books too and I hope they spark them to become life long readers.

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    1. Yes, I love introducing books I've loved as a child to nieces and nephews as well. Babysitters Club seem to be a common one!

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