People often ask, and I often discuss (especially during my Q/A sessions after my shows) my favorite Poe story or my favorite author, etc. However, something I do not discuss as often is when I really began to love reading as a child. This blog post will seek to answer that question as we take a trip down memory lane together.
I have always enjoyed a book, although my first memory of reading something that still sticks with me would be somewhere around the first or second grade. My class had to go to the library and each child had to check out a book and write a simple book report about it for homework. I say simple, but to a little boy, a book report was a daunting thing, and I was a little nervous about having to try and summarize a book. I picked out one of the Berenstain Bears books and headed back to my seat.
That evening, I read the book, all the while trying to figure out how I was going to write a one page book report about it. Thankfully, my Aunt Rhonda was over and she assisted me with the book report...and by "assisted" I mean that she basically told me exactly what to write. It was great - and I got a 100 on it! However, while I still remember sitting and writing that book report, my love of reading had not yet taken hold.
One other book that does stick out from that same time period is "The Mickey Mouse Magic Book" which I also checked out from the school library.
I specifically remember going to my Granny's house and reading about how to make a ghost escape from a bottle. You put a penny on top of the bottle, put a few drops of water on the penny, and then held the bottle with your hands wrapped around the bottom half. After a minute or so, the penny started to move slightly on the top of the bottle...as if a ghost were escaping from inside! Granny and I read the instructions, got everything set up and then tried it out and it worked perfectly. I never forgot that afternoon, nor the description of that trick along with a few others from the book.
Skip forward a year to the third grade at Blakeney Elementary School. I was in Ms. Ainsworth's class, and it was time to take our first trip to the library, which was about five times the size of the library at the primary school. We were told that we had 30 minutes to find a book, check it out, and then head back to class. We would have to tell the class about the book in a few days after we had read it. As I looked around at this huge room full of thousands of books, I had absolutely no idea where to start. So I did what any third grade boy would do - I started picking books off the shelf at random - no rhyme or reason or consideration as to what section I was in.
While randomly looking at books, I was also keeping an eye on the clock on the wall to see how much time I had before a decision had to be made. At first things went great, but then I started to get a tad bit nervous as I noticed the time slowly ticking down. Ms. Ainsworth also keep reminding us every 5 minutes or so that we needed to go ahead and make a selection...which made it even harder to actually concentrate on my end.
As we got down to the last minute or two, I was ready to give up - I had not found a book and I was convinced that I never would. I walked up to Ms. Ainsworth with tears in my eyes and whispered to her (so none of my friends could hear or see tears) that I didn't have a book or even know where to look for a good one. Instead of the lecture I imagined I would be receiving, she gently took me by the hand and we walked to the far corner of the library at which point she asked me if I liked mysteries. I applied in the affirmative. We were standing in front of a shelf with a row of light blue books,
and Ms. Ainsworth said that these were "The Hardy Boys" series and that the two main characters solved a mystery in each book. I took book #1 "The Tower Treasure" and checked it out. I was just happy to have a book before my time ran out.
I went home that afternoon and started reading it...and I read and read and read and read. I could not put the book down - it was great! I was completely immersed in the world of Frank and Joe Hardy and their many friends. The next day in class, Ms. Ainsworth walked up my row and asked what I thought about the book, and I spent the next minute telling her every single detail I could remember. I was so excited and couldn't wait to get a chance to read the rest of the story. I do not remember anything at all about the book report we had to do a few days later, but I do remember that as soon as I finished the book I was counting the days until we were scheduled to go back to the library and check out a new book. The second trip saw me get book #2 in the series,
and by the end of the year, I had read every single Hardy Boy book in the library, and I had started into the Sherlock Holmes stories...which were still just a little too much for my 9 year old brain, but I would come back to them at a later date and fell in love with Doyle's stories as well.
From that point on, I was reading every chance I got. I made good grades, but my primary motivation at school was to finish my work so I could pull out my book and read! Of course, school wasn't the only place I read - I loved reading while riding (when I turned 15 and got my learner's permit, I was sad that I had to start driving instead of sitting in the passenger seat reading a book), in bed at night, sitting in the living room, waiting for the bell to ring in the mornings at school, and any other time I had more than a minute or two to burn.
We occasionally went to the public library as well, but the selection was sporadic, so we (my brother was an avid reader as well) always looked forward to going to the mall which had a book store in it. We would do whatever it took to get a book - whether that be saving up money, making Principal's List, scratching Mom's back for an hour, begging - you name it and we would use it to get a book. And let's face it - it's hard for a parent to say "no" when the only thing you ask for is to go to the bookstore to get a book to read.
From the bookstore in the mall, I would find that I loved fantasy novels, and I still love to go back and read some of the original Dragonlance series.
Fast forward a few years and I found Poe and Lovecraft and the rest is history. I have told the final part of this story elsewhere, but I'll also mention that I had an Aunt, Annette, who gave us $10 gift cards to Waldenbooks every year for Christmas. The final gift card the Christmas before my 21st birthday was used to buy Mark Wilson's "Cyclopedia of Magic"
Well, that is the story of how I got started on my reading journey. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. I'm sure that you have your own story which may share a few similarities with mine along with many details that are unique to you. I would love to hear all about your journey, so do leave a comment below, on Twitter or Facebook, or email and share your experience!
WAIT!!! I almost forgot - I have performed at my hometown schools (both primary and elementary) for the last few years and last year I checked the library and guess what I found!?! The original Mickey Mouse Magic book as well as those old Hardy Boy books. After discussing it with the media specialists at both schools it was mentioned that we could arrange a trade - I'll replace those books with newer ones and I'll keep the originals from so long ago! I hope to make that happen when I perform there this coming May - I'm terribly excited!
Okay, now I'm done! Have a great day!