Just as everybody has a distinct set of fingerprints, every person has a unique relationship with reading. Everybody has a different past, present, and future that affects their relationship with the art of reading literature. These experiences leave an imprint on our lives and influence the way we interact with reading; they form our own reading autobiographies. Every piece of literature we’ve picked up, tried, revisited, and hoped to block out from our memory has shaped how we look at words on a page. For those in the study of education, it shapes how we will one day interact with literature and our students together. Like all readers, I’ve experienced books that have changed my life, books that were a waste of time, and periods that lacked the presence of reading all together. All of these experiences combined have created my own personal reading autobiography.
Everybody remembers their first book, right? Everyone has their favorite picture book that they will forever romanticize with a sense of nostalgia in their figurative memory book. Maybe it was the book they memorized the words to, proudly told their parents they could read, and recited every word of it from sheer recollection. This seems like a common memory for everybody, everybody except for me. I’m sure it existed; I’m sure it’s out there somewhere; I just don’t remember it. Like every young child I enjoyed picture books, especially Dr. Seuss. As a young girl I enjoyed reading Judy Bloom, who didn’t? However, none of these readings stand out in my memory. The first book I fell in love with however, was certainly one to remember. This book is the one most romanticized in my memory because the years I spent reading it left me with the biggest impact. The Two Princess of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine was the first book I read over, and over, and over, and just when you thought I’d be sick of it, I read it again. The first time I checked it out from my school library, the librarian warned me that it might be too challenging for my age level. As I grew older and more capable of a higher reading level, my librarian grew tired of telling me to try something new. This book had every element that makes a fantasy story great. Two sister princesses lived in a faraway land, in a time long, long ago. One sister expressed every embodiment of bravery, courage, and adventure; the second sister on the other hand, was beautiful, graceful, and ladylike, yet timid. Then one day disaster strikes; the Grey Death emerges and claims its victims through a painful and agonizing sickness. One of the princesses falls ill with the Grey Death, can you guess who? The strong, gutsy, adventuresome princess is rendered unable to valiantly search for the cure. So guess who must find it? Yup, that’s right; none other than the dainty, fearful princess of Bamarre. As a young girl this story captured my attention and never let it go. It will be forever preserved in my memory as one of the greatest books I have ever read.
Still, despite my first favorite book, I was not an avid reader as a young adolescent. I read here and there, when I had too, and when it was convenient. The next book that stands out in my memory is not a book at all; rather it is a collection of books. It may be an unusual source of leisure reading for a high school teenager, but the collection of books that captivated my attention was the Bible itself. It first struck me as this: a collection of stories and histories I had heard bits and pieces of throughout my life; however, I wanted to know everything that was in it. I wanted to search it all and learn every detail, every secret, everything I didn’t know about it. Contrary to the way most people read Scripture, I picked it up and read it from left to right, all the way through, from Genesis to Revelation. What was so great about it was once you finished one book, there was always another to read. So for a year and a half I always had a book; I always had a story, and they all came out of the same binding. This was the first time in my reading life that I constantly had a new book or story to read. This perpetuated my desire to constantly have a book in my hand, and since then, I have always had to have a book to read. This was the book that made me want to pick up more books: the book that made me want to always have a story to be sucked into. This is where my avid reading began.
Since my days reading Scripture stories I tried a plethora of different books, but I always came back to the same kind: Fiction. Not just any fiction though; my ideal read is a science-fiction, fantasy novel. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy realistic and historical fiction, poetry, and graphic novels, but nothing compares with the fantasy genre in my book (get it?). My problem with realistic fiction is, well, it’s too real. I need something fantastical, far out. I need something to get me out of my head and into a place where I’ve never been before. I need my imagination to be stretched. I want to go to places I’ve never been, see things I’ve never seen, and do things I could never even dream of doing in real life. This is why I love fiction so much: because the possibilities of topics to explore are as endless as the stars in the universe. Think of all the most prominent science-fiction/fantasy novels that are prevalent in pop culture; you name it, and I’ve probably read it. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and The City of Ember; I’ve read and love them all. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings are my favorite books of all time. These are the books that have grown on me; I came to know the characters like they were part of my family. Yea, it’s kind of weird, but reading will do that to you; it’ll make feel like you know people that don’t even exist.
While I love science-fiction and fantasy novels, I still seek to broaden my horizons. There is a whole host of books out there, and whole new worlds just waiting for me to explore. As I journey on into another chapter of my reading autobiography, I want to know more, read more, and come to love reading in new and different ways by reading things I’ve never read before.