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Inside the Blogosphere: Who Introduced You to the Love of Literature?

The question for this edition was born from my day job, where I am a middle school (ages 10-14) teacher tasked with teaching the enjoyment of reading and all the skills we use to understand what we read.

Who first introduced you the love of books and reading? What about them resonated so deeply with you that you came to love books and reading too?

I got quite a few interesting responses, from parents, to an uncle, siblings, a teacher, even one’s own self. I hope you, dear reader, find these stories as fascinating and entertaining as I did. And please do share your own tale in the comments!

Mari Adkins @ Mari’s Midnight Garden:

My grandmother read to me when I was very small, long before I learned to read myself. She would tuck me in at night and read to me. Then, when I started learning on my own, I would read to her. Then, we would take turns. My dad is an avid reader, too. When I got big enough for chapter books, he started supplying me with all sorts of things to read. By the time I was eleven, I was reading Tolkien, Clark, Bradbury …

Elizabeth Barrette @ The Wordsmith’s Forge:

My parents. They lined the walls of our house with books, read to me frequently, gave me books of my own, and encouraged my interest — even when it led me into nonfiction material that most small children don’t read. My parents supported my desire to “run and find out.” Among my favorite memories are my mother reading me The Hobbit when I was four and my father reading me The Yearling when I was six. There was never a time when I wasn’t surrounded by books, and what I loved was the sense of infinite possibility. There were all kinds of imaginary worlds and stories to explore, and if you wanted to know something about this world then there’d probably be a book about that too.

In fact, that later grew into my habit of using nonfiction to spawn ideas for fiction. Today I’ll take an idea for a weird animal and turn it into a science fiction alien for a story or a poem. I’ll take an event in the news and spin it into alternate history. If I design a flower, that imaginary plant has real botany behind it; if I build a language, it includes what I know about linguistics. I remember how fascinated I was, growing up, when I would look at certain stories and think, “This bit here matches that other bit of nonfiction I saw over there.” I want to give my readers the same opportunity to think, “That is SO COOL!” when they find those tidbits in my writing.

Terry Weyna @ Reading the Leaves:

When I was very, very small, long before I learned how to read, my mother read to me every single day. Mostly they were Golden Books — those small hardcover books about 20 pages long, mostly pictures, a bit of text; you bought them in grocery stores then, and I used to beg for one every time I accompanied her on her weekly shopping trip. But the best book was much bigger, The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated by Marie Ponsot and with beautiful illustrations by Adrienne Segur. Oh, those pictures! There was Donkey-Skin with her lovely cape over her head, birds and sheep surrounding her; the mischievous Puss-in-Boots with his jeweled belt and the jaunty feather in his cap; Thumbelina in the middle of the forest with an owl looming large over her; the goose girl from “The Wild Swans” with one of her brothers, crown on his feathered head. My favorite story was “Bluecrest,” with the picture of the beautiful girl behind the bars of her window, with the lovely blue bird her prince had been magicked into bringing her gorgeous jewels. When I grew older, the book somehow disappeared. My mother may have given it to a cousin when she had children, but no one really knew where it had gone to.

Then one day my new beau and I were shopping in a bookstore — one of our favorite activities — when suddenly, there was The Golden Book of Fairy Tales! Big as life and twice as beautiful. My beau immediately bought it for me, which I think was what made me fall in love with him. He got it. He knew that that book was as important as anything could be to me. (We celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary next month.)

Even though I was enraptured by stories early on, I learned to read only after the nun who taught me first grade helped me make the connection between the written word and the story. Sister Madonna Marie, wherever you are, I’ve always loved you for that. On a large easel was a picture from the blown-up reader we used, open to a picture of a boy sliding down a slide, and I suddenly understood. It was as if one minute I couldn’t read, and the next minute I could, like plugging in a lamp to get light. I immediately became insatiable, reading everything and anything, including cereal boxes was nothing else was to hand. I read more than any other child in my school, several grade levels ahead of where I was supposed to be, zipping through books with immense joy.

More than anything else, I read fairy tales. I loved magic, the whole idea of things that weren’t possible in this world, the notion that you could just make things up. I never really wanted to be a princess or a witch or in any other way enter the worlds I was reading about; I wanted to create them. I always thought that was the most amazing magic of all.

I still do.

John Hulet @ Fantasy

I think that my love of Fantasy in particular can be credited to my 6th grade teacher.

I was a bit ahead of the rest of my classmates academically and instead of forcing me to read what they were(again), she gave me the Hobbit. I was hooked and began to look for more and more of that sort of wonderful escape.

Rebecca Ryals Russell @ Ramblings of a Raconteur:

I learned to love books and reading from my father. Daddy grew up in a household so poor they never had newspapers, magazines or books in the house. Oddly enough, however, he broke the mold of most kids in that situation and learned to escape into the worlds of books borrowed from the library. He wrote stories and poems that no one ever saw. I found them after he had died and sat for days reading the genius of this modest man who could never find it in himself to seek publishing, but should have. In high school the guidance counselor recognized his potential and helped get him a scholarship to U of F. He chose to go into teaching.

When I came along his last year of college I quickly became Daddy’s girl. We rode to the A&W stand on his red motorscooter in the evening for rootbeer floats and went boating and fishing down the Oklawaha River and Rainbow Springs River. All the time Daddy would talk about stories he’d read and characters he’d read about. By the time I was in Middle School I was devouring anything written by Ray Bradbury, JRR Tolkien, HG Wells, George Orwell, Edgar Allan Poe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and more. We would discuss the characters and plots and find the symbolism together. He was the best teacher anyone could have asked for.

By the time I could write I scribbled poems and stories and songs. Throughout my entire life I have written. I still have most of it and sit giggling at the insanity of it some days. Today I am a struggling writer of YA/MG literature. Each time I finish something I feel proud of I wish I could show it to my Daddy and let him know what a wonderful influence he was on my literary development. Finally getting published and becoming an author of books enjoyed by others will be the cherry on my rootbeer float and I know Daddy will be smiling.

Steve Davidson @ The Crotchety Old Fan:

Unlike most of your questions, this is an easy one.

My mother – with support from my father.

Both of my parents originally received teaching degrees from the Brooklyn College system; my mother went on for a Masters and my father eventually received his PhD and pursued a career in psychopharmacology (and no, despite what my brother and I both suspected while growing up, we were NOT the subjects of a long term drug study. At least as far as we know). My mother went from teaching all grades to becoming a Guidance Counselor and developing one of the first ‘gifted and talented’ programs for the Cherry Hill NJ school system.

Much to their regret (now) they decided that they would raise their children in a generally libertarian way “providing guidance and support”, but letting us make our (mistakes) decisions for ourselves. This necessarily meant that they had to give us the means to acquire information and to learn to think critically.

My mother actually used to make up science fiction oriented stories to tell me at bedtime. The only one I really remember was a spaceship crew that was visiting all of the planets of the solar system and eventually ended up landing on the Sun. (Never said that it was HARD science fiction.)

She and I also spent a lot of time listening to radio plays while I was growing up; a particular favorite for both of us was The Shadow. We’d talk about the stories and “imagination” was encouraged. (For her 75th birthday, I gave her an art print of The Shadow pulp magazine cover; back in the 30’s the magazine came out twice a month and her birthday is April 1, so it looked like the birthday issue of the mag.)

The school system I attended was a very good one (regularly highly ranked nationally) and this included an excellent reading program. I was an early reader and, following a conference with the school, I was basically allowed to set my own pace. Early stories included L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time and Del Rey’s The Runaway Robot*.

In fourth grade I was allowed to pick my own purchases (without supervision) for the first time when the bookmobile came around. I know exactly what I purchased (I still have them all):

  • Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Jack London’s White Fang
  • Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage
  • H.G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon
  • Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Master of the World
  • Robert A Heinlein’s Starman Jones

All of that for less than five bucks! (At the age of 9-10!)

I wasn’t “grilled” on my impressions, but I was regularly asked where I was at, what I thought, how I liked them, etc.

A year later I’d gone through all of the available Heinlein (he made the biggest impression), read LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and was working my way through The Lord of the Rings – sitting by myself in a corner of the classroom while all the other kids were reading something dull and programmatic.

I guess in the long run I owe it to my mother, my father and the school system that was advanced enough and open enough to allow students to read at their own pace, rather than forcing everyone into a cookie-cutter mold.

And Mme Shelly and Messrs. Heinlein, Stoker, London, Crane, Wells and Verne for sufficiently firing my imagination that I’ve wanted more and more for the past 40+ years.

*Still have both of those too. In fact, during a moment of stupidity and avarice, I traded the Del Rey in at a used book store. Years later I was interviewing Lester at the SF bookstore in Philly and went to pick something up for him to sign. I saw Runaway Robot in the stacks and, upon opening it, discovered my own signature inside. Despite the fact that Lester was not actually the author of the story, after hearing that story he agreed to autograph it anyway.

Cara Powers @ Ooh . . . Books!:

Like most people (I think), my parents first introduced me to reading. They read to me every night as a child. According to my mother, one night I began reading on my own. She wasn’t sure, so she tested me with a book she’d read and lo and behold I really was reading. Also according to my mother, I had read the entire Little House on the Prairie series by the time I hit Kindergarten. Now, a “specialist” in gifted education says I was just “decoding”, meaning I didn’t really understand the words I was reading. My response: why would I read chapter books if I wasn’t understanding and enjoying the story?

It probably helped that I’m an Army brat: we only had one television channel. It also helped that my father is an avid reader. I lived for Scholastic Book Fairs and would stay up all night reading on weekends. My mom would know because she’d notice my crankiness the next day. I’ve also always suffered from insomnia. In junior high when I couldn’t sleep, I’d complain to my parents. They’d yell from their bedroom, “Read a book.” I’d go raid my dad’s library full of military history, military SF, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. Yes, I was reading about sexual healing and people being beat up and killed in 7th and 8th grade. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t permanent.

To this day, I read more like a stereotypical man than a stereotypical woman (except I love YA and fairytale re-tellings – I was weaned on Grimm’s Fairy Tales). My first science fiction novel was Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I read it reluctantly on recommendation from my father but then went on to read every book by Heinlein I could get my hands on. My dad and I still trade books. He introduced me to Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, and Robert Jordan. I’ve introduced him to Robin McKinley, John Scalzi, Joel Shepherd, David Brin, Lee Child, and convinced him to read Frank Herbert’s Dune books. I always know what he’ll like. He understands my book acquisition syndrome in a way my mother can’t.

Basically, my mom encouraged my literacy, but my dad and I are peas in a pod.

Adam @ The Weirdside:

It was probably my Uncle David. He doesn’t have any kids so he’d always get my family presents on our birthdays, Christmas, etc, and he would always get me books. The one I remember most distinctly was when he got me Dune back in third grade. I remember reading it and having no idea what was going on, but that it somehow transcended stories, and that it’d be double cool the next time I read it. And it was.

Greg Tidwell/Omphalos @ The OBR/Omphalos Book Review:

I have always been a book lover. Some of my earliest memories were of going to sleep at night after having stacked all the books that I owned around me to read. That was before I even knew how to read! I never really stopped loving books, but I have to say that it was my younger brother, Jerry, who really got me into SF books. I read a lot of stuff like Hardy Boys and Judy Blume and The Great Brain and other YA series like that in the ’70’s, but one night he gave me a copy of Ringworld, by Larry Niven, and from that point on I was hooked.

John DeNardo @ SF Signal:

You know, I never really thought about this until now. I remember reading lots of comic books when I was younger, but my book reading didn’t really start until 6th grade when my English Teacher, Ms. Kutz, read us portions of The Hobbit. She would mimic the character voices — she did a mean Gollum — and then we’d go around the room and read passages ourselves. It was her lively reading that stoked my interest enough for me to walk into mall bookstore, where I discovered science fiction. Larry Niven’s Ringworld is one of my earliest reading memories and I’ve loved books ever since.

Lise A @

I love numbers, and could calculate before I started in school, while reading was a school thing. But once I learned how to read, I never looked back. I used to borrow 10 books at a time from the school library. I think I had a somewhat sheltered childhood, and books brought some necessary adventure. In the start I read a lot of fairy tales, and that love later mutated into a love for SF. Also, my love for numbers mutated into a solid knowledge of science. Probably couldn’t have gone otherwise! :-)

Tinkoo Valia @ Variety SF:

In my case, it was mom, though she did it unintentionally.

Where I grew up, cheapest source of novels was neighborhood “circulating library” – tiny privately owned libraries one of which tends to exist within a few minutes walking distance from practically any place you live in in urban India. They cater to local tastes, & will lend you books on a daily charge basis – usually with a refundable deposit so you’ll remember to return.

Mom was an avid reader, & used to send me to fetch/return books for her. Of course, I ended up reading them too. Mostly social melodramas mom loved, & in Hindi. I must have been in sixth or seventh standard then.

Rose Fox @ Genreville:

Will you accept “I don’t even remember” as an answer? I grew up surrounded by books (and authors); I was reading by age 3 and never stopped.


Without a doubt, I’d say my father was responsible for my love of reading. Some of my earliest memories are of his reading fairy tales to me as I fell asleep each night. In fact, without realizing it, he taught me to read, as I’d make him read the same ones, night after night, until I’d memorized the words by sight and would “read” them back to him. I was around three years old at the time. His voice, and the magic he infused into those fairy tales, led me to a lifelong love of the written word.

Angela Wilson @ PopSyndicate and Market My Novel:

Books have always been a part of my life. When I was really little, my mother bought several books and records to teach me to read. (Remember the 45s? I still have them.) That developed a lifelong obsession with reading and book collecting. As an only child, books were my constant companion, a tie to worlds full of adventure, romance, mystery and strange creatures – worlds much more interesting than my own. Though my genre tastes have changed, books are still my link to adventure.

Neth @ Neth Space:

For me it’s all about the family. While I don’t have any specific memory of it, my parents (my mother in particular) read to me all the time as a baby and toddler. My aunt tells a story about how easy I was to baby-sit – ‘just read him a book’. She went on to say that you could have read me a phone book and I’d be fascinated for hours (I have no idea how this has affected my reading tastes J).

My family all reads – even today when we visit it’s not common for the room to be quite with everyone’s head in a book. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go to the bookstore and pick out a new book. By junior high I was reading my way through class – the teachers fast learned that trying to stop me was a waste of time (and I was an A student, so what did it matter). Adding it all up, loving books was simply inevitable.

This is a lesson I’ve taken to heart since becoming a father. Both my wife and I read to our son whenever possible – heck, I was reading to him well before he was actually born.

Steven Klotz @

I’m sure I won’t be alone in sharing that my parents instilled in me a love of reading. First they read to me, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. A few years later I discovered my Dad’s old Hardy Boy’s collection, which both jump started my reading and expanded my view of books in 2 directions.

1) Seeking out more Hardy Boys books, led me to my school’s library, which I began to devour, piece by piece.

2) The next thing on the shelf at home, after the Hardy Boy’s books, were the Star Trek books. Star Trek is where I really started talking to my dad about books. I saw him reading the Star Trek novels as they were released and it felt amazing to catch up and read the books right after he finished them. At one point he told me that he found the
formulaic structure of the novels comforting, but I picked up on the implication and asked what OTHER science fiction was available. He pointed me at the library and suggested I start with Heinlein and Asimov. I was hooked.

From that point on I largely followed my own path through the literary landscape. The last and ongoing contribution to my love of reading came from and continues to come from my mother. My mom sends me clippings of the book reviews she thinks I’ll find interesting, and I can count on her to send, for a birthday or Christmas, at least one great science non-fiction book a year. Reading about the search for knowledge at the edges of science inspires me to continue my pursuit of knowledge, and 90% of the time that involves reading. Other people suggested books over the course of my life, but my parents stand out as the single largest influence on my love of reading.

To be like my parents: read to your children, let your children see you enjoying reading, keep appropriate books around the house, and be ready to talk to your children about what they read. It doesn’t hurt to support your local library and used bookstores as those are treasure troves for the aspiring reader.

Carole McDonnell @ Carole McDonnell:

My mother introduced me to books. She grew up in Jamaica in the country. They were pretty poor and the family didn’t have money for books. In order to study she would borrow books from the teacher and memorized them. Most westerners think that oral tradition is untrustworthy and that oral storytellers tend to get the facts jumbled up. But that’s not really true. if a westerner ever visits a foreign country he had the chance to visit before, he would be surprised to hear the words of their last conversation retold to them in detail. It’s amazing what the human mind and memory can do. So that’s how my mother studied….both fiction and nonfiction books. And even when she was older she could recite long passages from Ivanhoe, A Tale of Two Cities, the Bible and countless other books.

She loved mythic stories and romantic stories so she was always reciting them in the house. As a child of the British Commonwealth, Mama was a lover of all things British. So the house was full of poetic rhythms. She was also a singer in the choir — an Anglican church. So poetry and noble music was everywhere. Very hard to live in such a house without developing a love of fantasy. I can hear her now: “In that pleasant district of merry England that is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys….”

That’s about how much I remember. Although I suppose — if forced to– I can recite the “Tell Tale Heart” if called upon. Unfortunately, the rhythm is so much in my ear –and so unconsciously powerful in my subconscious– that I always have to work against it whenever I write. As you can see from the preceding convoluted sentence. More than one editor has warned me against it. But as some say: the things learned in childhood remain with us.

Logan K. Stewart @ Rememorandom:

My love of reading stems from two separate people. First, my mom has always loved to read and I grew up seeing her with her head in a book whenever she had time. She took my brother and I to the public library often and we always enjoyed the trip. The second influence was my 2nd & 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Harrison I remember sitting on the carpet and listening to her read stories like The Indian in the Cupboard, My Teacher is an Alien, anything by Road Dahl, and Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I fell in love with the stories and with the power of imagination. I wanted more, and more was found in the library. The way my mom and Mrs. Harrison revered books was passed on to me, and I hope to do the same with my kids one day.

LibraryDad @ LibraryDad:

This was a hard one to answer for me. I knew exactly who first introduced me to reading. That was easy. The hard part is that he was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in numerous organs. He hasn’t been given a positive outlook, but I think he’s doing as well as can be expected.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt of a letter I’ve sent to him:

Because of you, I love to read. And this is the big one Uncle Phil. This is the biggest one of all. I can still remember going to your parent’s place when you were cleaning it out. You let me dad and I pick through some things and gave us a paper bag full of old books. It was some old series called The Hardy Boys. At the time I loved how they smelled more than the idea of reading them, but as I began to read them, my life changed. I found I loved to read. I could escape from the real world and solve mysteries. I began collecting more of the series. And along the way I discovered other books were out there that I liked to read. Books with dragons, magic, and heroes. I couldn’t tell you how many books I’ve read since the day I left with that paper bag. But I can tell you I had fun reading them. And the best part of all, my daughter loves to read now. At the age of five she still struggles with words, but I can see that look in her eye when she sits down with a book. It’s the same look I had when I started reading The Hardy Boys.

I want you to know that regardless of when you die, be it today, next year, or in twenty years, you will always be alive inside of me. Every time I pick up a book, it will be because of you. Every time my daughter picks one up, it will be because of you. And because of this great gift, I will always love you and be thankful for the many adventures you have given me.

Alexandra Wolfe @ The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress:

It has to be said that my parents instilled in me a love of the written
word; they encouraged their brood of six children to all start reading at
an early age. Helped, in part, by older siblings who were voracious
readers, I too sucked up the written word from the minute my pudgy little
hands could hold a book. From about 3-4 years of age I was reading stuff
lying about the house, not just picture books for the younger kids, and a
library’s worth of novels of all genres, but also a ton of comics that
everyone, except my mother, read.

Even at an early age I was reading Verne, Wells, Rider Haggard and the
Biggles series of books at my sister’s elbow, along with any number of
Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke to supplement Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton’s the
Famous Five. And all this before I hit my teenage years when, on going
solo, I became a dedicated SF fan and pulp junkie.

I loved the freedom reading gave my imagination to go almost anywhere
whether here on Earth, or out there in the vast reaches of space and time;
past, present or in some imagined future!

Daya @ The Road Not Taken:

The love of books and reading was something that was definitely cultivated by my older sister. Growing up, we had very little to entertain us, unlike kids these days! My father took us to the local library weekly, where my sister would help me pick out appropriate books. Though, as I got older, we had our occasional squabbles on what could be considered “appropriate” for my age!

Being seven years apart, my sister left home fairly early in my life in order to continue her education. From there, we spoke over the phone and she would be the one sending me care packages, always including books. I suppose it was really a method of communication and connection between us. Many of my favorite books are those that have an inscription from her on the front page. Further, my parents weren’t the type of people who went out for dinner or took luxury vacations, so of course being the “only” child at home, I was starved for any sort of entertainment. I quickly grew to love my sister’s preferred genre, fantasy, and it resonated with me because it was so escapist. I simply had to open a book and I would be “elsewhere”, which was especially helpful during the turmoil of teen years.

Reading early on also gave me an edge in school where I excelled in English–reading, spelling, and writing were my strengths, and so in turn I was encouraged to read more often to keep it up–Raise your hand if you can spell “spaghetti”!

To this day, I love books and reading. Not only do they symbolize learning, books create meaningful bonds and build relationships between people. Just ask my sister.

Bill @ From A Sci-Fi Standpoint:

The short answer is that I introduced myself. I have no memories of my parents reading to me as a very young child. Oh, I’m sure they did read me the occasional Dr. Seuss or something, but I don’t remember them putting any special emphasis on books. No, from a very young age, I found the wonderful world of books on my own, partly from browsing the elementary school library, partly from finding whatever was lying around. This was only natural, since I was a born geek, shy and introverted in the extreme. Right from the start, I was captivated by the wealth of experience to be found in books. History, biography, science, fantasy, sci-fi, I loved it all. My family had an old set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas, and I even used to read those. Yeah, that’s how much of a geek I was, I read encyclopedias for fun. Did I say “was”? I’m still a geek, of course. It kinda goes along with all this science fiction I read.

Brenda @ Brenda Loves Books:

I guess it was probably my parents who introduced me to books. I’ve been reading (and was read to) for as long as I can remember. My parents used to take us to the library, and I always loved walking among the many bookshelves, and the plethora of books to choose from. I remember finding an author I liked, and then reading every book I could find by that author. The library still remains my go to choice for getting books.

For me, reading has always been about escape. We never did very much traveling when I was a kid, so when I read, I got to visit all these different places. And with fantasy books (my favorite genre) the places I could visit were unlimited. I love the way books stretch my imagination, and make me think about things I never would have. I just love holding a book in my hands–the feel of it, even the smell. There’s nothing better!

Johne Cook @ Ray Gun Revival Magazine:

My dad was a voracious reader when I was growing up, and I’ll be forever indebted to his fabulous paperback library in the basement. From Asimov and Heinlein to Roger Zelazny, my dad had a veritable treasure trove of great books. It is where I first read Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Smith, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, classics from Kipling to Dumas to Twain, and genres from Westerns to SF to fantasy and beyond.

I read his library, and when I was old enough, I went out and found my own. Building on that foundation, my son has discovered my library and is now following on the same path first carved out by my dad.

Tia Nevitt @ Debuts & Reviews:

When I was a kid, I was labeled a “problem reader.” That was the exact words they used. They called ’em like they saw ’em back in the 70’s. So reading was a chore in the first, second and third grade. When I was in the third grade, I started catching a lot of flack for what my homeroom teacher called “playing with my fingers”. However, I was only trying to see. I had discovered that I could squish away all the fuzziness in my vision if I peered through a tiny hole I made between my fingers. I could actually see the chalkboard! It was amazing. Personally, I think this was pretty danged smart of me to figure this out. But I had to sneak to do it, because I’d get in trouble if I got caught. And in this sort of environment, speaking up wasn’t exactly encouraged.

But at the very end of the year, another teacher figured it out. She brought me up to the very front of the classroom — where I had never been because I was so tall — and asked if I could see better. I could.

When I started the 4th grade, I was wearing glasses. I struggled for most of that year under the auspices of a teacher who really seemed to hate me. But then, I had an epiphany when my father was helping me with a homework assignment. Suddenly, it all made sense and I could not only read, but I could spell when I had always struggled with that in the past. That very week, I got my first-ever A on a spelling test, and my teacher thought I was cheating.

So obviously she wasn’t the teacher who influenced me. That came in the fifth grade. We moved to a new school and I got a new start. It was just what I needed. A young and pretty nun took a shining to me and challenged me to do more than I thought I could. I started writing poetry. I memorized Hiawatha’s Childhood (the whole thing, thank you very much). And I started reading novels with The Wizard of Oz, a novel that she gave me as a prize for reciting Hiawatha’s Childhood in front of the class. I raided the library and read every Nancy Drew they had. I’ve never stopped reading since.

In the 12th grade, a third teacher challenged me to do even more. I started delving into the classics and discovered a fondness for medieval literature and linguistics. From there, it was a natural progression to fantasy via T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

So for me, it was a trifecta of teachers. One who got me to see, another who taught me to enjoy reading, and another who made me discriminating. They succeeded by believing in me and challenging me to do more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favorite teachers are all the ones who got me to do more than I thought I could.

Carole, The Shaman RAT @ The Luminous Page (formerly The Mistress of Ancient Revelry):

My memories of reading in childhood and adolescence have less to do with one particular person and more to do with “groups” of people and the mind-set of certain institutions.

There were more magazines and newspapers than books in my house while I was growing up, but the presence of those periodicals, along with the encyclopedias my parents purchased, were indicators of the importance of reading, information, and knowledge. In particular, my parents bought me a child’s encyclopedia with brightly colored covers that I vividly remember to this day, and as I grew older, I frequently read sections of the Encyclopedia Britannica at random.

I attended a Roman Catholic grade school and they greatly encouraged our reading habits. We routinely studied literature that was grade levels above my friends in the public school. The local library was a longish walk, but my dad would regularly take us there during his weekly visits after my parents’ divorce, and the library itself was a source of pleasure and comfort to me. I never formed a close friendship with any particular librarian, but I was free to roam and choose books from any area of the library. No one censored my reading or told me that it was too “grown up” or above my comprehension. My special haunt was the upstairs in the closed stacks – the silence, wealth of books to chose from, and scent of paper in that room on a sunny day wove an unbreakable spell for me.

In high school, (again, Roman Catholic) there was a heavy emphasis on liberal arts, college prep, and honors courses – we studied world literature and religion in addition to our English classes, all focusing on an eclectic collection of time periods and literary styles. We were reading Russian novels, Anglo-Saxon prose poems, ancient Greek tragedies, modern French existential essays, and British and American classics, as well as attending Shakespearean plays every year. Dante’s Divine Comedy co-existed happily in this milieu with Buddhist philosophy, James Michener’s Hawaii, E. E. Cumming’s goat-footed balloon man, and Madame Bovary.

In retrospect, my love of books and reading was nurtured in great part by the objects themselves, the buildings that housed them, and those people who advocated for the freedom, breadth, and depth of my mind.

Dave-Brendon @ Davebrendon’s Fantasy & Sci-Fi Weblog:

One of the many things that my parents did right was the way they introduced me to reading. My earliest memory of reading by myself was reading comics like Casper and Spooky and Archie – I remember that my mom bought be about ten or twenty comics and I devoured them in days. That’s what got me started with comics, and I’m now a 28 year-old comic-lover, but anyway. :-)

My parents were very clever in the way they got me to graduate to books – they would read what they wanted to read but not force me to read; so they’d be sitting on the couch or lying on the bed, reading, and it got me curious. I wondered why I was reading comics and they weren’t, wondered if I was missing out on anything, so I ended up starting with Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five and Franklin W Dixon’s The Hardy Boys. I tried The Secret Seven but it didn’t really work out for me – I think that I was already graduating to less of the same back then, and consequently, I left behind The Hardy Boys too.

But the one book that really blew my mind (and gave me nightmares) was Stephen King’s Pet Semetary – I was 9 when I read it. I can’t remember if my mother approved or not (she must have) but I do remember that the book amazed me and terrified me; it was absolutely exhilarating to discover that the world that I had thought was cozy and calm, the world that made sense and where everything was provided for me, had hidden deep inside it the weird and twisted and strange and magical aspects that made Pet Semetary so memorable.

I was lost to the world after that – TV was still cool (some programs, at least), but books were everything to me. Having a bad or boring day at school was no problem at all when I could escape into a world of a novel; I was the only guy in my school (Primary and High) that read much or or at all, so maybe you could call it a coping mechanism, I guess. :-)

Not much has changed since I finished High School; I still read more than anyone I know, have more books than anyone I know, and I’m a bookseller, too; Books and reading are one of my passions, and the only thing that terrifies me is thinking that I wont have time to read. I have to read at least a chapter in a novel every day, otherwise that day has been wasted; life is monotonous enough without having a place to escape to, and books will always be my escape. Now that I’m a blogger / reviewer, too, I guess the most important aspect of what we do is this: sharing our thoughts, and hoping that we light that spark in someone else. :-)

Now it’s your turn! Tell us your story about who most influenced your love of reading and books in the comment section below!