The Classic Book That Inspired Me to Read for Life

I am a devoted reader. I owe a lot of that to my classic book loving Mother.

But I also owe a lot of it to one of my 4th grade classmates. I don’t remember which one, but one of those kids gave me the reading bug. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Devouring Classic Books

My Mom was a reader. The kind of kid who read all the Dickens in her tiny local library. (And by Dickens I mean actual Charles Dickens. She’s hardcore.)

She taught me to read extraordinarily early, she got me lovely copies of classic books. I still have them, with illustrations and gilt on the edges of the pages. Black Beauty, Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and more.

Though I was usually obedient and responsible, I didn’t respond to my Mom’s encouragement. I didn’t read any of my lovely books. I didn’t read much of anything.

The Book That Inspired Me

Then came that fateful day in 4th grade. We were moving and there was a going away party. Someone gave me a gift: a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows.

Maybe I started reading it because I was bored. Maybe it was because I really wanted to read but couldn’t give my Mother the satisfaction. But I felt something strong that I’d never felt before.

I guess I hadn’t realized that behind all the encouragement, my Mom wasn’t trying to force some tedious task on me. She wanted me to have the kind of incredible experience only children can have when they read with passion and intensity. It made me a reader for life.

Not that I learned my lesson right away. Mom told me to read the classic The Yearling and I think I may have lied and said I did. (But seriously. Read The Yearling. It’s very good)

When my Mom gave me the entire Anne of Green Gables series it languished on my bookshelf for years. Then, of course, I read every last one of them within a month and kicked myself for losing all that time I could have spent with Anne.

My son is still a toddler, and he has yet to show an interest in books that don’t have something fuzzy or prickly to touch. But he is not one of those “book babies.”

I envy the moms of book babies who get to read to them and watch them turn pages and point at pictures. We’re not there yet. I am trying to remember that it’s okay if it doesn’t happen right away. It’s okay if it doesn’t happen for a long time. If he is a true reader, he will find his way, whether I introduce him or whether he happens upon a book in the library or at a friend’s house.

But you can bet that I’ll be the one to give him his own copy of Where the Red Fern Grows.

Jessica Severson is a full-time working mom blogging through the madness of autism, parenting, budgeting, reading and life in general at Don’t Mind the Mess. She is a crazed bookworm who reads over 100 books per year and is currently patting herself on the back for finally finishing “Anna Karenina.”

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