What leads one to become a reader? What led ‘you’ to become a reader?
These are questions I often ask myself, because I wonder how it happened for me. When my son was young I read to him every night, or at least told him stories every night. Some of them I made up myself. He had two large bookshelves in his room and they were full of books. Anytime he showed interest in a book I got it for him. He certainly saw me reading a lot. But although he does read and does enjoy it, he certainly isn’t a reader like I am.
When I was growing up, my mother read newspapers or magazines, mostly things like Better Homes and Gardens. She read the Bible. I don’t remember her reading fiction although she did have some of those Reader’s Digest condensed books at one time. My father read the Bible and farming magazines. He read for religious reasons or for information. Both my parents were great people but, maybe because they had to work so hard all their lives, they just didn’t do much reading, and certainly not just for fun.
My oldest brother was married and gone by the time I was born, but my other two brothers never read anything while I was growing up that they didn’t have to, except maybe hunting magazines. One of my brothers did become a reader later in life and even has his own excellent library, but I didn’t see him reading when I was young. My sister read a good deal, though, and it was from her that I borrowed a lot of books while I was growing up. These were mostly books she brought home from the library, many of them for her husband, who was definitely a big reader.
My parents, in fact, tended to actively discourage me from reading as much as I did. My mom often told me I was going to ruin my eyes, and both mom and dad would find me reading in the house sometimes and make me go do chores. They didn’t mind a little reading but I just did too much to suit them, and not the right kind of stuff. Oh, I read about hunting and fishing, and I read the Bible, but I also read science fiction and fantasy and that nonsense. There certainly wasn’t any of that kind of stuff around our house. I even used to hide out in the barn to read so I wouldn’t be caught for chores. Yet, today, I’m one of the biggest readers I know.
So what’s the secret to creating a reader? Do you encourage reading, model reading, and read to them every night? Or do you tell them they read too much and to put down their books and go outside? Do you buy them any book they want? Or do you let them scrounge for whatever reading materials they can find? I tried the first way. My parents tried the second way. My way worked somewhat, but mom and dad had the most success.