After the conversation with Amanda about the importance of the roles parents play in kids’ reading habits, I started thinking about my own. Parents… and habits.
Back in the days before Amazon, if you ordered books to have them shipped to your house, it was via a catalog. Usually the catalog was arranged by genre or age group and it was called a “book club”. You would get discounts on the cover prices if you ordered from the book club. Do these things even still exist?
Anyway, they started us early, those Scholastic fliers were almost more tantalizing than the second half of the Sears Christmas catalog. Books, tiny clipart images of their covers, tiny blurbs about their plots. My eager fingers would circle the ones that I had to read. We ordered a few times from Scholastic.
Then, we started a book club in the 4th or 5th grade where they sent thin hardback books. I don’t know whether they let us choose what was included. It seemed like a hodge-podge grabbag of books. Everything from Mr. Popper’s Penguins to Dracula is a Pain in the Neck. arrived in those boxes. I devoured them, and then I outgrew them.
In the 5th grade, my mom and I took turns reading chapters of The Hobbit out loud to one another. When we finished the book, I got my own copy of the Lord of the Rings. I was no longer very interested in the Babysitter’s Club or those girls in Sweet Valley High. I wanted Dragonsong. Once I’d exhausted mom’s Anne McCaffrey collection and started in on the rest of the books at the library, my mom decided to join a Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club.
I can still remember the bubbling excitement of our book club orders coming in. It was a box full of hardbacked goodness. I remember cracking open that box and being awed by the colorful paper sleeves surrounding luxurious hardback books.
If a book was by an author mom wasn’t sure of, she would read it first. At 6th or 7th grade, I trusted her veto power. I had plenty of other books to read. She is a super-fast reader, so her “pre-screen” read of anything only took one or two days. I could read the latest Pern or Rowan book without pre-screening, so she’d have a stack ready for my by the time I got to it.
I still own most of those books.
I look back on this time of reading and see some lifelong habits that settled into place. I still love sci-fi and fantasy, naturally. I still read the same genres as my mom. We still share books and swap author names. We still talk about the books we have both read. I’m still giddy with excitement when boxes of books arrive in the mail. I, too, read super-fast, but I didn’t realize it had anything to do with my mom’s reading pace until a few years ago. I didn’t realize that the only person I’ve ever know who reads as much as I do is my mom.
Parents don’t just encourage kids to read. Parents’ reading habits shape the habits of the kids.