OK, I think our friendship has reached the point where I can now tell you the truth about how my love for reading got started. As with a first kiss, I will remember my first experience with reading forever… and it wasn’t all that great. Unlike most of my fellow readers in the book community, I definitely didn’t start reading at a very young age. In fact, reading and I weren’t always the best of friends growing up. We had a complicated relationship. When I would attempt to read, letters would magically switch positions, I would stumble over words or say them incorrectly, and what’s most annoying part is that I would normally have to read a sentence several times just to get its meaning. I can’t say for sure if I was dyslexic, as I was never diagnosed, but I wouldn’t be surprised by it. It comes as no surprise that at a young age, I had low self-esteem and would inaccurately consider myself stupid. At school, I would become quiet and withdrawn, hoping that people wouldn’t notice me. Sadly, people did notice me and as a result, I was bullied throughout my elementary school years. However, as I got older something inside me started to change. I found myself visiting both my local bookstore and library quite often. A small stack of books began to pile on my nightstands, and composition notebooks were slowly being filled with interesting new words. Just like that, a beautiful romance was beginning to brew.
My earliest memory of reading is spending a few minutes after school with my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Alvarez, reading books way below my grade level. I wholeheartedly believe that kids could tell the difference between teachers that cared and those that didn’t. Mrs. Alvarez immediately picked up on my reading ability and was determined to help me. She never called on me to read out loud during class, she gave me extra reading homework assignments to help with my overall grade, and she moved my desk next to hers so that I could easily ask for help instead of staying silent. Not only was she patient with me when I struggled with reading, but she also went out of her way to purchase a few books for me to keep at home so I could practice. I remember crying to her one afternoon when a group of girls from my class repeatedly called me stupid during lunch. I was ready to give up. Mrs. Alvarez pulled me aside before PE and encouraged me to be strong and ignore those girls. She even went as far as contacting the girls’ parents and creating the “Good Behavior Game” in which good classroom behaviors were rewarded during the instructional time of day. I instantly felt better and was reminded that there was someone that cared. She remains my favorite teacher to this day. Knowing there was someone invested in my success gave me a reason to do better, and to challenge myself in reading.
With the help of my favorite teacher, reading was slowly becoming a new outlet for my imagination and a constant companion. Although Mrs. Alvarez did her best to prevent me from getting bullied by my classmates, I was already a target for being weirdly skinny, ridiculously shy, and embarrassingly awkward. Yet, none of that bothered me too much. Since I had no friends, I turned to books even more. If someone was being mean to me, I’d pulled out my Sweet Valley High novel and escape to another world. At lunch, no one would sit next to me, but I was too nose deep in reading the Boxcar Children to care. Genres like romance, mystery, and historical-fiction let my mind stray from reality. They kept my imagination alive while I was being forced to learn multiplication and the names of countries. I went from loathing reading to losing myself in a book for hours. To encourage me to continue reading, my mother used to ask me questions about my latest reads since I didn’t have anyone to share my thoughts with. I remember telling her how I wish I could keep my books instead of returning them back to the library. Despite the fact that my parents didn’t have money to always buy me new books, my dad built me a small bookshelf and my mom would take me to our local bookstore on special occasions. I was slowly falling in love with reading.
Of course, as I got older, the bookworm inside me slowly died. I blame many things for my literary dry spell: college burnout, new jobs, guys, and watching more T.V. I was an adult, flushed with new freedoms. But it didn’t feel right—this life without books. I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know where to start. But what happened next was nothing short of magical. One evening, as I was browsing through YouTube, I came across a video where this girl was gushing about the books she was planning on reading. Her name was Zoe, and her enthusiasm sparked something deep inside me. Zoe resurrected my bookworm spirit and I was instantly curious to know more about her reading journey, and also to get back to mine. I learned so much about the BookTube community and quickly became fans of other BookTubers like NayaReadsandSmile, Books with Chole, and PeruseProject. Since then, I’ve been reading nonstop and I feel so alive!
In a nutshell, reading and I had a rocky beginning, but I wouldn’t change my experience at all. Because I struggled with reading at an early age, I appreciate it much more now, knowing how far I’ve come. Reading gives me purpose, helps me persevere through difficulty, and unlocks parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed.
What is your earliest reading memory? Let me know below!