Mercurio Rivera pointed me to this article from CBS online, about an NEA study on the dismal state of American literacy. To summarize: few kids are reading. I blame the usual suspects: poor parenting, video games, television, the hyperscheduling of children’s lives.
The thing is, the parents aren’t reading either. How do you engender in your children that which you do not do yourself? It ain’t easy.
When I was eight or so my father came home from the library with a box of more than a hundred old books they were discarding. Among them I discovered Heinlein, Asimov, Niven, and Lovecraft for the first time. In the winters, we’d vacation in Florida to visit my grandfather. I remember we went to this bookstore about a mile away and my father said to me, “I want you to buy five books.”
“Five?” I said, not sure if I understood correctly.
“Yes,” he said.
“Isn’t that a lot?”
“No,” my Dad said. “You need to read more.”
When I had begged my Dad for a G.I. Joe figure, one was too many. But now, books, something which I already loved, were offered to me by the bucketload. I was a kid in a candy (er, book) store, and my father had to literally drag me out two hours later because I was examining the cover of every single book. I wanted to read them all.
What I was aware of, even then, was that my father wanted to engender in me a love of reading. And he succeeded. To this very day, my fondest memories are sitting poolside in Florida, reading through science fiction novels about one every two days. I read Rendesvous with Rama there, as well as The End of Eternity. His attempts to create in me a love of reading succeeded. Part of that may have been my innate curiosity, but I’m not sure without that first push by my Dad if I’d be reading as much as I am today.
I’m curious as to what people’s experience is here, i.e., what was your initial push that spurred you to become the reader you are today? Was it something innate, or did your parents have a hand in it? If there’s a common ground here, perhaps we can encourage parents to do the same.