Reading through Gwen Bell‘s letter this morning, she talked about reading as a child. She took the conversation to Google+ and asked three questions.

  1. Why did you read what you read as a kid?
  2. Who or what encouraged you to read?
  3. As a kid, was it the quality of the writing or the quantity of it that mattered to you?

The more I thought about it, the more I wrote so I turned it into a post here instead of a comment there.

1. Why did you read what you read as a kid?

Reading was my escape as a kid. We didn’t have cable TV, and to this day can’t get it where I grew up. Books are where I got my adventures and stories. I was always a voracious reader. I would often read a book during classes in school when I was bored or already knew the material.

I got yelled at more than once for having my nose stuck in a book instead of paying attention to the teacher.

I grew up in a small, rural town in northern Virginia. Berryville was a town of about 2,000. I grew up reading because it offered my imagination a place to go and stories to live out which were more exciting than the cows and apple orchards surrounding the farm.

When I was young I read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown. I loved the detective tales. Perhaps it’s because my dad was such a huge Sherlock Holmes fan but I loved those stories.

When I got older I found Roald Dahl. I fell in love with The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Danny The Champion of the World and of course Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Chokey in Matilda and the dream bottles in The BFG captured my imagination growing up. The BFG resonated with me because I was such a big kid. I was always the tallest kid in my school until 8th grade when I had a math teacher who towered at 6’8″ barely eclipsing my 6’4″.

I never read any of Dahl’s adult books which I didn’t even know existed until a couple of years ago. They lack the magic of his children’s work.

I’ve read his autobiography, Boy which was enlightening and gave me more insight into the man with whom I had shared many hours of my childhood.

2. Who or what encouraged you to read?

Both of my parents encouraged me to read. They were both college educated and knew the value of education in life and wanted me to have the same advantages of a good education. It also provided endless hours of entertainment and information.

Part of my love of reading came from both parents having owned and worked in the printing and copying industry.

They founded Circle Graphics then Copy General and with it came my love, borderline addiction, to reading. Much like my father, I am barely able to walk past a poster, sign, pamphlet or anything else with words without stopping to investigate.

3. As a kid, was it the quality of the writing or the quantity of it that mattered to you?

I don’t remember thinking of either of these when I was a kid. I would say quality because while I read a lot, I read specific authors or series.

Once I found Encyclopedia Brown, I read lots of those books. The same went for Roald Dahl. Once I found his books, I read nearly every children’s book he wrote. Many of them I read more than once and in every case was highly disappointed by the movies in every case.

Fun Fact: I never read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory growing up. Sure, I had seen the movies starring Gene Wilder but I hadn’t ever read Dahl’s original until I was in high school.