Joanna here, asking the Wenches "What kind of reader were you as a kid?"
Maybe I'm asking, where do adult readers come from?
What kind of reader was I?
In a word? Insatiable — and I still am now. By day I was happy to be out and about, playing and exploring with my dog, but come night-time it was essential to my happiness that I always have something to read. (We didn't have TV — my father didn't approve of it.) I don't remember not being able to read, but probably that's because my parents and siblings read to me a lot. AA Milne — the poetry as well as the Winnie the Pooh
stories, Pookie the flying rabbit, whatever they had, and once I could read I read everything I could lay my hands on. Not so much cereal boxes though — for me it was stories every time. Enid Blyton was a very prolific English children's writer, and I read everything I could find of hers, starting with Noddy, then The Magic Faraway Tree
, and moving on to the Famous Five and many other series.
We always went away at Christmas (which are our long summer holidays) and my presents always included a book or two, so in the caravan or tent I read my new books and then went on to read my brother's and sisters' books, even though they're a decade older than me. 7 isn't much of a playmate for 17, so whether it was tennis, or card games or scrabble in the evening, I couldn't join in. So it was usually a book for me.
Luckily we moved a lot, and in any new town the first place I sought out was the local library, and then when I started school it was the school library. In one school, another bookworm friend and I became a bit competitive — we were reading a decent sized book a night. The school librarian didn't believe we could read that fast and he'd grill us about each book before he'd let us borrow another one.
Now I live in a house filled with books, my childhood friends and my adult companions. Some evoke special times or events, and with some I recall exactly where I was when I first read them. I wonder sometimes what kind of person I'd be if I'd been raised in a home with no books. Would I be a writer, or not? I really don't know.
comes in with:
As I suspect most of the wenches and the majority of writers will say—I was an eclectic and voracious reader. One of my earliest memories is of lying on the floor with a book my librarian great-aunt had sent me for Christmas. I knew my alphabet but couldn’t read, and I had no one to read me the story promised by all the exotic pictures of foreign countries. So I lay there day after day, puzzling out the words on my own.
I begged for the Little Golden Books in the grocery store and to this day can probably quote from Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine That Could. We had no library or bookstore, so I would read the stories over and over, making up my own to go with the pictures.
Once I was able to access the school library, I knew no bounds. I’d pretty much read everything in the elementary school library by the time I was in sixth grade, including all the sports books meant for boys. I was reading Austen and Bronte because I could buy them through the Scholastic book club. I read Wheaties boxes at breakfast.
Those days are long gone, and I’m much too particular now. I can’t decide if that’s regrettable or not. I mean, Wheaties boxes? Let’s have a little discrimination!
Like so many other bookish children I was a reader who read anything and everything. It was an amazing voyage of discovery finding out about people and places I had never imagined, past, present and fantastical. I look back on those days with nostalgia and some envy because I don’t think it’s possible to capture quite the same rush of excitement and drive for reading that I had then. I read about children who went to boarding school, who had ballet lessons, who kept horses, who lived in the middle ages or in different countries. I particularly loved stories about big families with siblings because I didn’t have any.
My favourites were The Brydons (especially the Brydons on the Broads because there was a ghostly Viking ship involved) and the Fell Farm Campers because I lived in a city and the countryside seemed a strange and exotic place. I loved science fiction, I scared myself with ghost stories, and I cried over The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Happy Days!