My mother instilled a love of reading from an early age. My dad did too, but he didn’t read for pleasure like my mother did. I have great memories of going to the library with my mom to get books every week; when there was a fire at the library when I was probably seven or so, I cried because I had left my library card there the week before and I was devastated at the idea of not being able to take out books anymore. Thankfully, it was not ruined in the fire and my book privileges were intact!
I have an older brother and so when he started reading chapter books, I didn’t want to be left behind with my kiddie books so I tackled reading as something to be the best at. The first chapter book I read ( with my mother’s help) was Charlotte’s Web, which came in a special three book gift set along with Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan ( which I have not a lot of memories of, though I know I read it). I quickly moved on to Nancy Drew books which I had a hand-me-down set of hardcover books from my aunt. I loved The Boxcar Children series and anything by Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume ( Freckle Juice and Dear Mr. Henshaw were favorites). I had almost every Babysitter’s Club book; devoured the American Girl books, and just about anything else I could get my hands on.I was frequently found reading the encyclopedias at both mine and my grandparents’ house.
It’s hard to describe the feverish excitement I felt each month when the Scholastic Book Club booklets came in with their think paper and endless amounts of reading material and activity workbooks. I would spend hours reading every description and narrowing down my choices for my mother’s approval. Once a year the elementary and junior high school PTO would sponsor a book fair, which was third only to Christmas and my birthday in my mind.
As I grew up, my tastes changed and as I began liking history more, I read a lot of YA books that had historic events attached to it, like the Wild Rose Inn series ( Ann of the Wild Rose Inn remains my favorite). I had a particular obsession with Lurlene McDaniel books– which someone in my family ( mom? aunt?) called “those sick books” because they dealt with teenagers with terminal illnesses or organ transplants. Some of these were made in to Lifetime movies so that probably is an indicator of their level of drama. And of course, there was the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul phase I went through, as well as every other applicable book I read from that series. In my junior high years, I had a thing for Mary Higgins Clark suspense books.
It’s funny how, after all these years, even though the books have become more complex and the tastes have changed, I still feel that childlike enthusiasm every time I open a new book or walk into a bookstore or library. It’s a big part of who I am- sometimes I daydream about retirement and how many books I’ll be able to read then!
I’d love to know some of the books/series/authors you all loved as children and teens!