Who Introduced You To The Joys of Reading?

 I’ll never forget a particular trip to the library. My mom heard about the summer reading program and off we went.  It was quite the adventure!  The Granada Hills Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library had just opened, and it was right next to Petit Park, another brand new facility. I walked out of the building (which at the time seemed huge) with my own library card and a stack of books that included Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates.

Carolina’s Courage is about a young girl who leaves her New Hampshire home to travel west with her family.  They’re part of a wagon train, and Carolina’s most beloved possession is her china doll. Somewhere in the story she reluctantly trades it with a little Indian girl, and it’s that trade that leads to peace and safe passage for the entire wagon train.

Carolina’s Courage was the first “western” I ever read.  I’m so glad my mom took me to the library that summer. At summer’s end I’d read 25 books, each noted in my little-girl block printing and acknowledged with a stick-on gold star. That first summer reading program led to many others, and I will be forever grateful to the librarians who made it such fun. I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder at the library.  Same with Jack London . . . Later I moved on to Willa Cather’s My Antonia and O Pioneers.

Both of my grandmothers also encouraged my love of books.  I was about ten years old when Nana Bylin bought me my first Black Stallion book.  I read it fast, and then I read it again.  Every week for the next few months, she had a new book waiting for me.  When we finished the Black Stallion series, we launched into Nancy Drew. That was good for a year of reading! 

My other grandmother played a different role in my love for books. She was a writer at heart.  She never ventured into fiction, but she wrote wonderful letters. She lived about 400 miles away when I was in middle school, and we wrote weekly.  I wish now she’d written her memories in a journal. I don’t have the details, but she and her family traveled to New Braunfels, Texas in a covered wagon. 

The other individuals who encouraged me to read were elementary school teachers.  My fifth grade teacher put Caddie Woodlawn  into my hands and I loved it.  Every week when we went to the school library, I found something new and intriguing. For a while, I was hooked on biographies. I discovered Sacajawea  on the biography shelf and read it many times.

Has this blog jogged your memory?  What books do you remember reading as a child?  Do you remember the very first chapter book you ever read?  Books have always been magical to me. They still are!

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

28 thoughts on “Who Introduced You To The Joys of Reading?”

  1. Hi Victoria, loved your blog. I think I had about every childhood disease there was. Bedrest was the order of the day–and I can still remember the books I read while recovering. Mr. Poppa and his penguins played nursemaid when I had the chickenpox. (I’m delighted they finally made a movie of one of my favorite books!) Heidi and Hans Brinker saw me through the whooping cough. Black Beauty and Bambi kept me entertained during my bout with scarlet fever and Little Women and Jo’s Boys pulled me through the measles.

  2. What great memories, Vicki! My mother was an avid reader and also a second grade teacher. She read to me as early as I can remember. My first favorite book was a version of Raggedy Ann, which I could recite from memory long before I could read. Bambi was another early favorite. I wore that book out.
    And Caddie Woodlawn? Black Stallion? Yes, I loved those. Always had my nose in a book.

  3. Good morning, Elizabeth! I bet your mom could recite “Raggedy Ann” too! What a wonderful thing to share…. I’m so grateful for my grandmother’s efforts. It wasn’t easy to get to the bookstore back then, and she didn’t have a lot of money. But that book was always waiting for me. We’d see her on Sunday morning, and on Sunday afternoon I’d be reading that week’s treasure.

  4. What a fun post Vicki! I was an avid reader from a very young age. I liked adventure books mostly and started with the Bobbsey Twins, then moved on to the likes of Trixie Belden (my favorite) along with The Happy Hollisters and the Hardy Boys. I also read lots of comic books, mostly superheros and westerns.

  5. Loved your post Vickie! My mom got me started on reading when I was a child. I don’t remember all of the books, but once I started reading that was my way of having adventures and exploring new places. I do remember reading a lot of nursery rhymes, not that I remember how many of them go now. I know I also read Bambi, Snow White, and some other Disney books. I remember reading the Black Stallion series, Black Beauty, Nancy Drew and some of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. As a child I had always read books dealing with animals, especially horses.

  6. I did start reading at a young age. My mother was a big reader and we had a large collection of what I now know as historical fiction. I don’t recall too many age appropriate books, but I must have had some. I laughed at Margaret’s sick time version of reading. She and I had the same ailments, (I didn’t have Scarlet Fever), but the Green Shades were always pulled down to make the room dark, so I couldn’t read very well. I had the measles and whooping cough together! No sunlight in that room.

  7. I was a voracious reader as a child.
    Did anyone read the Happy Hollisters? For some reason we owned those books. I think we joined some bookclub. I’ve never seen them since. I may go look on Amazon just to see if they exist.

    I think the first glimmer in me…of the future writer I’d be….was when I read the first Black Stallion book. Even as a child, I was amazed at a skill I’d never experienced before in Walter Farley’s work. He made me LIVE those horse races. I could hear the thundering hooves, smell the dust, feel the horse’s heaving chests and the other horse bumping against me as I rode the black stallion to victory.
    It’s the first time I remember thinking, “How does he do this?”

  8. Brilliant post, Vicki! Oh, Caddie Woodlawn! And I loved Betsy, Tacy and Tib series. Oh, and Sue Barton, nurse stories.

    But…Louisa May Alcott has always done it for me. Little Women, ah. But also her Jack and Jill…when their friend Ed Devlin dies, well, just the memory of reading that scene still takes my breath away.

    Oh, Anne of Green Gables? The Secret Garden?

  9. Hi Becky, We liked a lot of the same books. Did you read the Big Red books about an Irish Setter? They were favorites, too. Moms are the best when it comes to giving kids a love of books.

  10. Hi Mary J, I’m glad for the measles vaccine. Same for mumps. I had both. Ugh! I went from kids books to historical fiction, mostly Michener. I vividly remember reading “Hawaii.” Have a good day!

  11. Hi Mary, I think of the Black Stallion books every time we feed the horses that live on the farm behind our house. They’re retired racehorses, and it takes me back to those books big time. No big Arabians, but thoroughbreds of all colors. They like peppermint and carrots 🙂

    Hi Tanya, Yes! The Sue Barton nurse books! I love them. If it weren’t for the general messiness, I’d be a nurse or a doctor 🙂

  12. I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, of course. 🙂 Plus Black Stallion, Little House on the Prairie.

    I don’t think I read Box Car Children until my own children were reading them. Or Bobbsey Twins…not as a child myself.

    We went to the library and brought home mountains of books. We had NO money so we didn’t buy books, though we did have those Happy Hollister books. I think one of us joined a book club and my mom couldn’t get it to stop coming for about three years. I believe she was annoyed.

  13. when I was younger I loved Dr. Seuss. I still think his work is almost magical, the earlier works were the best, before he started making words up.
    🙂
    Horton Hears a Who
    The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.
    To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street

    I still catch myself saying, “We are here, We are HERE, We are HERE!

  14. Vicki, my mother is the one who first introduced me to books. The earliest memory I have is of her reading to me. It was so special and I cherish the memory. After that I was hooked and it didn’t take any encouragement for me to read. In fact, my mother and certain teachers had to threaten me within an inch of my life to make me put a book down.

  15. I love this post, Vicki! It brings back great memories. My parents started my love of reading early. My first memories are of fairy tales, especially Rose Red and Rose White. That story probably started me down the road of writing and reading romances. Also all the Disney tales.

    Every summer our town library (the huge metropolitan Riverton, Wyoming library) held a reading contest and I was so excited my first year because I finished all the books and won a set of ceramic bookworms.

    Then I graduated to Anne of Green Gables, Hardy Boys and finally all the way to North and South by John Jakes and dad’s Louis L’Amour.

    Gracious, now that I started thinking about it there were so many, and it’s true that each was a fantastic adventure.

  16. What a beautiful blog. It does bring back memories for me. Where I grew up there were no bookstores, there was only the library. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and a book called THE PINK DRESS and later graduated to Emily Loring books. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  17. Hi Kirsten, No matter the size, a library is a magical place. It’s especially true in a small town, I think. We lived in a small town in California for a while, and that weekly library trip was a highlight.

  18. I was an early precocious reader who unfortunately started school early. The teacher didn’t think I belonged in her class so she kept sending me over to the class across the hall. I remember reading the big kid books prompted by that neighboring teacher. Thank God for her kindness.

    Peace, Julie

  19. Oh, Vicki, I loved this post! My mom and dad read to me when I was little, and of course, I had two much older sisters that did, too. I was sick a lot when I was little, like Margaret. I had several of the Little Golden Books and a big book that had some of the most wonderful stories and pictures in it called THE BUMPER BOOK. My parents had bought a fantastic set of books for my oldest sister called THE BOOKHOUSE BOOKS. There were 12 in the set and they started with nursery rhymes and each book was a little more difficult. The pictures were very unusual and beautiful. I can’t believe it, but I ended up with those, and I treasure them. Mom always went to get her hair done at the beauty shop on Saturday mornings, so she would take me and drop me off at the library while she kept her beauty appt. WHAT A THRILL. That old library was one of the most wonderful places I have ever been. I still remember the smell of it, and it was old when I was little. You could only check out 7 books at a time. I remember how excited I was to be able to go in there and look and decide on those 7 books. It seems like I was NEVER ready to go when Mom came for me, 2 hours later! Did anyone ever read Ricka, Flicka and Dicka? I loved The Jungle Book by Kipling, as I got older, and of course Heidi, Hans Brinker, and the Bobbsey Twins. Then there was Nancy Drew and so many of the classics. My dad loved poetry and had a wonderful reading voice. So many nights he would recite poetry to me, and back “then” we had to memorize and recite poetry in class in grade school. Did anyone else do that? Well, you have got me running down memory lane now! Caddie Woodlawn, the Little House books, and thank goodness for the Scholastic and Arrow book clubs in school where you could pick out books and order them off the sheet they passed out. Thanks for a great post, Vicki. I love seeing what got everyone else started on their reading journeys! There’s a poem out there that is so true, the last stanza goes like this: “You may have tangible wealth untold. / Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. / Richer than I you can never be – / I had a mother who read to me.”

    — Strickland Gillilan
    Thanks again for a great post!

    Cheryl P.

  20. Hi Julie! That leap to “big kid” books is awesome. Watching a child get absorbed in a real story for the first time is as much fun for moms and teachers as it is for the child 🙂

  21. Beautiful quote, Cheryl! Seeing “Scholastic Book Club” just gave me shivers. I’d spend hours looking at the flyers, picking and choosing. Hmmm. I still do that, but for ebooks for the Kindle!

  22. Mary C., my daughter still does that too, but hers is, “Can you eat them on a plane? Can you eat them in the rain?” etc. It’s surprising how many situations you can change the words to fit…LOL
    Cheryl P.

  23. Your post really took me back, Vicki. Some of my earliest memories are looking at picture books while my mom read to me. The first chapter book I ever read was Laura Ingalls’ ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ — a gift from my parents. I still have the hardcover editions of the entire series.

    The other book I read and re-read was ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. My mom found an edition somewhere that had a glossary & illustrations in the margins, making the older English much easier to follow. That was the first book I read until it literally fell apart.

  24. Other than the non-fiction I loved to read (about history, science, archeology, etc.), I started with Nancy Drew. One of my aunts had the “complete collection” – for the early 1950s at least. After that I read The Hardy Boys and other type mysteries written mostly for boys.
    The first real westerns I read were MY FRIEND FLICKA, THUNDERHEAD, and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING by Mary O’Hara. Loved them. GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING was my first romance. I remember it as a sweet revelation.
    Unfortunately, not many of my relatives were big readers. Most were too busy working and raising children. I am sorry I missed so many great books. Now I am trying to catch up plus make sure the young people I know are exposed to as many books as possible.

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