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First Books: The Stories That Got Us Into Reading

30 September 2017

From Bookriot:

When I was nine years old, a collection of books changed my reading habits forever. I can even remember exactly which book made me become an avid reader, and how reading went from being something I liked to do in class, to something I couldn’t live without.

Many years later, I still hold Uma Aventura by authors Ana Maria Magalhães and Isabel Alçada (a Portuguese set of adventure books with no translation to English, unfortunately) close to my heart; they led me to a path I am more than grateful for. Books are magic, and I hold that magic in my hands every day thanks to a single story I picked up as a child.

. . . .


There were picture books I loved as a kid but nothing fueled my desire to read more than The Babysitter’s Club. My older sister would read them to me before I could read them myself and that got me started on the Babysitter’s Club Little Sister books. But those were just a placeholder until I could get my hands on the “real” BSC books. Once I did, I devoured them feverishly–the regular series, the Super Specials, the mysteries, the Super Special Mysteries, etc. The Babysitter’s Club taught me to love reading (and writing) and I’ll always be grateful to Ann M. Martin for that.

. . . .


For 8-year-old me, the Goosebumpsseries was like my imagination synthesized into story. I was the kind of kid that still needed a nightlight, that snuck into my parent’s bed when the nightmares became too much, that, yes, still sucked my thumb and carried around the remnants of a blankie. But the Goosebumps series let me resolve those nightmares, and I loved them. I would carry a stack to school and try to finish my busy work as fast as possible so I could have extra time to read. I combed used bookstores to find the ones I was missing. I even wrote a short story and entered it into a Goosebumps’ writing contest (alas, my pirate-ghosts short story did not win). It wasn’t long after that I discovered Stephen King, and began reading adult books for the first time. It may seem like a leap in reading levels, but I had no difficulty navigating from one to the other. Eventually, I switched from horror to fantasy, but Goosebumps enabled me to move from middle grade reading to adult reading, and it also showed me, all unknowingly, that escapism can help me to face my fears.

Link to the rest at Bookriot

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9 Comments to “First Books: The Stories That Got Us Into Reading”

  1. My parents had gone to school during the Depression. When I got curious about reading they taught me the sounds of the letters and how to sound words out.

    Later, in the first grade, while the teacher was trying to drill “whole word recognition” into the class via “See Spot Run”, I found Andre Norton’s “Galactic Derelict” in the school library. Neither word was in my vocabulary, but I liked the spaceship on the cover, and I managed to persuade the librarian to let me have a book “above my grade level.”

    It took most of a week of evenings to fumble my way through the book, which definitely *was* “above my grade level”, but it was ripping good story, and I became a rabid science fiction reader…

  2. I remember the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries.

  3. Kipling’s “Just so Stories,” Andrew Lang’s colored fairy books, and Holling Clancy Holling’s books were what I remember drawing me in. And _Ashante to Zulu_ and other exotic-to-me books about the world.

    I grew up in a house full of books, and read anything within reach. The Little House books were also great, because of living in the Midwest at the time and knowing roughly what pioneer life was like based on school lessons and trips around the state with my parents.

  4. My mother read me a lot of books–too many to list. My father gave me a dictionary and said, All the words are in here. Write your own books.

    So I did.

  5. Mom read to us, and trips to libraries were the funnest outings ever as a child. Nancy Drew was my gateway to becoming an insatiable bibliophile. My favorite gift was the giant lexicon dictionary my parents gave me for Christmas in the sixth grade.

    I think they were just tired of me asking them, “And what does this word mean? And what about this one?” The hours I spent reading it … and there were the times I had them drive me to different libraries in our county so I could consult other dictionaries if mine was missing a word.

    • We had “scholastic” dictionaries in the classrooms in elementary school. Apparently the vocabulary was picked by morons; the dictionaries only had words like “tree” and “dog” and “green”, which presumably most children already knew. Never once did I find a word I was looking for in one of those worthless wastes of tree pulp.

      The Standard Teacher Response to any question about a word was always “look it up in the dictionary.” After a while I came to understand that was Teacher-Speak for “go away, kid, you bother me.”

  6. The book that got me into reading was not one I ever read. Long before I could read, my dad would tell stories. Yes, he’d read to us, but my sister always asked “Tell us a story out of your own mouth.” And my dad would tell us a pot boiler made of pieces of all his favorite books from the 1940s, with kidnappings and gangsters and child heroes, etc.

    I was hooked on reading long before I read my first book. (Which, if I remember right, was Harold and His Purple Crayon.)

  7. Both of my parents were big readers and encouraged my brother and I a lot, taking us the library regularly and buying us books.

    I am an avid reader and I’m definitely showing my age here! I can remember reading Put Me in the Zoo; Tootle; Green Eggs and Ham; A Fly Went By etc. I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books before going on to Nancy Drew; Trixie Beldon; the Hardy Boys; Charlotte’s Web; The Velvet Room by Zilpha Kealtey Snyder; The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall.

  8. First chapter book I read on my own (because I couldn’t wait for my parents to slowly read a chapter each night) was when I was about 6, Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy. From my perspective at that age, it was an exciting story about a young boy and his horse, and how they lost each other in the midst of war and found each other years later in the US. As I got older (and reread this book every year) I began to realize I was reading about a young Hungarian who’s world was torn apart when his father refused to submit to the Nazis (who his weak mother supported), and ended up a refugee in the US. This led to the other Kate Seredy books set in Hungary and US, with themes about anti-semitism, pacifism, immigration, community values, prisoners of war, sacrifice. No wonder I became a history professor and then finally began to write my own historical fiction!!

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