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Home » Books & writing

How to (Cr)Eat(e) Fried (Book)Worms

Submitted by on June 5, 2010 – 9:24 pm 28 Comments

A friend of mine recently bemoaned her kids’ resistance to reading despite her repeated attempts at instilling an interest. This conversation made me think about how I first got hooked.

Among my earliest memories are those of my family sitting together in the same room reading: my father with his newspaper, my mother grading essays for her job as a high school literary teacher, my older sister and brother poring over their school textbooks. They all looked so important and smart. I was about 4, not yet in school or literate, insanely jealous that everyone else could read, desperate to join the party.

I’d take blank sheets of paper and draw squiggly lines on them to represent lines of print in a book if you’re looking at it from far away. I’d sit on the couch with my papers and pretend to read my gibberish, even flipping the pages every now and then. My mother laughed when she finally caught on to what I was doing.

Shortly thereafter I started school, learned how to read and there was no turning back. The first books I remember reading were Hergé’s Tintin adventures about the boy reporter and his globetrotting crime solving. Those books opened up my mind, made me want to grow up to be a reporter and travel the world (weirdly enough, I managed to accomplish both; the travel is ongoing). I then moved on to Nancy Drew in third grade, Encyclopedia Brown in fifth and Sherlock Holmes in the summer between sixth and seventh grade.

The pattern here is obvious: I enjoy problem solving. I love having my mind engaged by mysteries, using logical deduction to arrive at the solution, hopefully before the author reveals it. Every time this happens, there’s a sense of satisfaction and confidence that maybe I can resolve most things in my life if armed with information and perseverance. The next time I put together an Ikea storage unit, I WILL figure it out. I solve fictional murders, dammit! I will not be cowed by a Swedish hutch!

But back to my friend and her problem with her non-reading kids. Based on my own experience, I could only suggest she designate reading time in her home every day, starting with maybe 15-20 minutes. That’s what worked for me but of course this was about 100 years before video games, iPods and texting.

So, I thought I’d ask you: What made you want to read? Why do you read what you read? Any other Tintin fans out there?

28 Comments »

  • Paulette says:

    I have a Tintin watch! Does that count for fandom status? Like you, I recall wanting to be able to read long before I could—-I would make up the story and pretend as I “read” aloud. I would also have my mother read to me so I could memorize passages and then have her point to the proper starting place and I would recite, but to me it was reading! The first thing I remember being able to read (without faking) was a cereal box! I was so excited. I loved to read for adventures, escape (I was on restriction a lot) and for information, but the first BOOK I recall loving (before I discovered Nancy)was Stoner’s Boy by Seckatary Hawkins. What was the first book you were required to read for school that you truly loved? For me it was A Tale of Two Cities.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I want a Tintin watch! Is it a Swatch? Last weekend, there was an auction in Paris of rare Tintin artifacts which netted $1.3 million. I lusted after the original panels from King Ottokar’s Sceptre but didn’t have an extra $299,000 on me.

      The first books I read for school that I loved were The Once and Future King by T.H. White and Steinbeck’s The Pearl. King was my introduction to the Arthurian legend and it captivated me. My teacher said we only had to read the first two chapters but I ended up reading half the book the first day I got it. And Pearl just broke my heart. I learned a lot from how Steinbeck made such a deep impact with so few words.

  • Donna says:

    I was born with a love of reading. At least that’s how it has always seemed. Mom used to say I followed her around babbling stories before even talking clearly. She first read “Ferdinand the Bull” to me + a whole world opened up. Got lost in the tales of King Arthur + the Round Table. I wrote short stories. Fantasy-sci/fi occupied me for years. From there to gothics into romantic suspense, spy thrillers + my favorite – mysteries. I love history; especially ancient + medieval. Nowadays I read a good variety.

  • Naomi Johnson says:

    Even with four siblings there never seemed to be anyone around who would read to me for as long as I wanted them to. I wanted so much to read myself, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to learn. That day at school when they began teaching us how to read — I was so relieved. Duck to water, that was me.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Do you remember why you wanted to read so badly? What were your first favorite books?

      • I wanted to read for myself because then I thought I could read whenever I wanted to and not have to wait for someone else to be ordered by Mom to read to me. We had a book of fairy tales (Hans Christian Anderson) that I loved (except for Thumbelina – hated that one), and we had lots of Bible stories that had the most expressive ink illustrations, no color, just black line drawings. Once I could read for myself at a level above the Little Golden Books (which I did not favor), my favorites were Cinnabar, the One-O’Clock Fox; Sam Patch; Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men and Jo’s Boys (I’ve never liked Little Women, I don’t know why. I guess I thought the sisters were just too sappy.). I was pretty young when my sister read me The Monkey’s Paw, which is still one of my favorite short stories.

  • Patti O says:

    My parents usually read to us at bedtime when we were little. I don’t remember learning how to read, but I remember going to the school library and looking for Happy Hollister books. The only good thing about our move when I was in 4th grade is that I could walk to the local library–complete heaven. I read primarily mysteries mostly for character, and for the fact that the crime is solved by the end of the book. If I don’t have a chance to read during the day, I can get cranky–I need to read every day. I read a variety of fiction now, quite a bit of young adult fiction as I am a teen librarian, and some nonfiction.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I get cranky, too, without my daily reading fix! I could be climbing into bed exhausted at 2 a.m. but HAVE to read at least one chapter in a book before going to sleep or else I wouldn’t be right in the morning.

  • le0pard13 says:

    I love these stories you share with your readers, Elyse. Those squiggly lines on those sheets should be proudly framed. Anyway, one of the earliest blog posts I ever did answered that first question of yours (found here). My current phase of mystery/crime as been influenced by friends/bloggers like yourself and the quality of the writers working in the genre. Lastly, I never did read Tintin (my earliest memory on the subject was probably The Hardy Boys). Thanks for this, Elyse.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Haha! Those original squiggly lines are long lost, as is everything else that had to be left behind. They weren’t frame-worthy anyway, just the squiggles of a small child.

      Your mother sounds like an amazing woman who sure raised a fine son!

  • Jen Forbus says:

    I don’t remember learning to read or wanting to read, it was just always there. My mom would buy us books from rummage sales, and I would copy over the letters in the pages.

    My mother always read to us when we were small and when I was in school, I would come home and teach my younger sisters or when they were in school themselves, I would teach no one…just dolls or imaginary people.

    I was just talking about this with my mom this morning when I stopped at her house. I wanted her to make sure my niece is signed up for the summer reading program at the library. I told her I remember how much I loved that when I was little. I discovered Betsy-Tacy one summer through that program. One summer I was on a non-fiction kick and read a number of biographies about presidents.

    My favorite days at school were the ones where we went to the school library to pick out new books. Here I discovered Frog and Toad, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    My third grade teacher introduced me to the Sideways Stories from Wayside School, everything Beverly Cleary, and The Boxcar Children.

    Are you tired of my rambling comment yet? In case you’re not, my first introduction to mysteries was The Westing Game. I love that book to this day! Oh, such wonderful memories. All I can recommend for nurturing a love of reading is to make reading time special and make it a habit.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I love your detailed comments! Also love how you taught your sisters to read and continue to ensure that the next generation reads, too.

      It’s so interesting to hear about the first books you enjoyed. I’m not familiar with Betsy-Tacy or the Boxcar Children. Because my first years were spent elsewhere, my first books were different. I’m still discovering classic American children’s books through my nieces and nephews. I do remember loving Curious George, Amelia Bedelia and The Giving Tree. And then there’s Pooh. Oh, how l love that bear. The final story when Christopher Robin talks about leaving 100 Acre Wood and Pooh asks if he’ll ever come back? Me, bawling.

  • EIREGO says:

    I have a set of Tin Tin glasses. I am so afraid of them getting broken that a rarely drink from them. I know, I know…so, what’s your point?

    I wasn’t subjected to the Jack and Jill or Cat In The Hat series of books like other kids. My older siblings were never really interested so there were never any kiddie books to pass on to me either. In 1st or second grade I learned of doing extra credit toward our final grade by doing book reports and found a whole section of biographies written about famous people like presidents, inventors and explorers. They were pretty much written in the same format and probably by the same guy. (perhaps he was doing it for extra credit as well?) Oddly enough, the book report we had to do was more of a fill in the blank type rather than a word count situation. And, at that age, I wasn’t expected to use a typewriter. As long as I answered the basic questions on the form, then I was good to go. There were 75 of these books and I was so hooked on them I started banging out three per week after the first two. Finished them all, got straight A+s and quickly became top of my class in homeroom. Of course, I didn’t do so hot in P.E..

    This my earliest and most fun memory of early reading.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      You were a little hustler for extra credit! Impressive! I sucked in P.E., too. The only skill I had there was running, which I honed daily by running away from kids wanting to pick on me.

  • jann says:

    I don’t remeoimber being read to or being told to read, I just always read. The library was (and continues to be) my favorite place. I recall checking out books WAY to advanced for me, but I read them so I would appear as smart as my older sister. In the past decade I’ve been dealt a few curveballs (my Hubby has MS and had to retire in his 40s) and reading became necessary for my sanity. An escape, a chance to visit new places (or revisit places we’ve grown to love), a way to experience new things….It’s funny: my 21 year old has had his nose in a book as long as I can remember, but my 16 year old (who was read to and been exposed to books as much as her brother) views reading a book as torture. Go figure.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s MS and forced retirement. I agree that reading can be a lifesaver. If my library allowed me, I’d pitch a tent in the mysteries section and move in (the bathrooms are REALLY clean).

      That’s interesting about your daughter. Does she read other things besides books? Magazines? Comics? Blogs?

  • I love reading your childhood stories, PCN. I don’t recall any pivotal moment for myself ~ my sister and I were big readers from as early as I can really remember and I can most likely attribute my short-sightedness to it. Odd that I find it hard nowadays to make the time to read, even though I still absolutely love it when I do! Shockingly, I didn’t find out about Tintin until much later in life, but I do remember loving Babar. The Narnia books really stayed with me, and I can remember my primary school library vividly. In my teens, I read a lot of fantasy, Ludlum and historical romances ~ one extreme to another!! Perhaps the Ludlum helps to explain my freaky abilities with an allen key.

  • joy says:

    oh, man…overabundance of curiosity got me started. : ) typical type A behavior, i guess…that and the fact that i wasn’t allowed to watch tv. well, the macneil-leher news hour and the olympics. i learned how to read by copying the newspaper and pestering my parents constantly about how to spell words. and like some of your other readers, i was read to a TON. my mom would read to me while i was taking a shower. wowsa.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Oh goodness, you were watching MacNeil-Lehrer as a child? No wonder you’re brilliant! I was watching Banana Split and Ultra Man. Your mom reading to you during showers is AWESOME.

  • Novelwhore says:

    I love your squiggly lines story, PCN! You always were so inventive! I was only allowed a very limited amount of TV a day and always encouraged to read, whether it have been pestering my parents to read to met before I was able, or sneaking books I wasn’t supposed to be reading (Mary Higgins Clark and R.L. Stine weren’t allowed, as they were “unnecessarily evil”). My dad and I read the entire Wizard of Oz series before bed over the course of several years – did you know there are a dozen books that take place in the crazy and wonderful world of Oz?! Talk about a way to jump start one’s imagination (he and my younger sister made it through the Harry Potter books).

    Like most of the commentators, I don’t remember one pivotal moment.. Oh, it was traumatic at my 8th or so birthday party when we played telephone (the game where you sit in a circle and tell a secret that inevitably is warped before it reaches the last person) and it got to me that “Lydia EATS too much” and I was horrified, when it was supposed to be “Lydia READS too much” because I was the cool kid reading during recess.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I love how Mary Higgins Clark was your dirty secret! She was one of my early favorites as well and the very first author I waited in a line in the snow with no shoes on to see at a signing in D.C. I didn’t know there are a dozen Oz books, just that there’s a whole bunch.

      Oh gosh, the telephone game used to stress me out! Not only did I have trouble hearing the whispers, I had trouble with English when I was a kid! The messages would get seriously warped after they passed through me.

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