July 8, 2021
For those fortunate enough to learn the joy of reading at a young age, books can be impactful, perhaps even life-changing. Accompanying book characters through life challenges and experiences can set a course for young readers for whom they want to be and how they want to live their lives, or can simply begin a lifelong interest in reading. With this in mind, I asked some adult readers what book they read in their childhoods that had a significant impression on their lives.
The qualities of courage and fortitude were lessons some readers learned through their book choices. One individual loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series, particularly the early books, relating how they taught her about overcoming challenges, the importance of family, and drawing close during difficult times.
Reading Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken taught one reader the importance of persistence and gratitude. In this book, the young characters faced much adversity during England’s industrial revolution. She says, “I can still remember how this book made me feel and how artfully the author transports the reader to this time and place.”
That sense of getting “lost in a book” was also experienced by one reader with The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, a historical fiction novel about a girl from Barbados who moves to a Puritan settlement in Connecticut. This reader remembered, “… the feeling that it gave me of being completely lost in another time and place. That's something I still seek out in the books I read. It's also one of the first books I remember choosing for myself.”
Two of the adults I spoke with chose Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, one of them noting, “Drawing your own adventures would be so cool!” She also chose The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the classic French novel about a young prince who visits various planets in space, including Earth. “When I read it as a child I found it to be a fantastical but rather sad story, and it is, but having read it several times since, it has developed into a more deeply meaningful story. I own a well-worn copy which I will likely read again someday before I pass it along to be enjoyed (and maybe loved) by someone else.”
The timing was just right for one woman to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. During the adolescent years, many teens have questions about God, religion, and growing up, and this reader found the Judy Blume favorite a helpful support during an unsettling time.
Choosing just one book proved to be a challenge for some readers. One chose The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein, a book she and her dad had read together. Reading that book and eventually the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy began her enduring fascination for Middle-earth, one that even prompted her to take a college class on the series. Another reader recalls Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton as the first adult book she read. “Not only did it make me feel so grown up to read, but it also scratched my itch for stories about dinosaurs.”
Memories of sharing a book with a loved one can last a lifetime. One reader recalls being read to by her grandmother the book Ho-Hum by Patricia Lynn in preparation for nap time. She and her other siblings and cousins would yawn along with the boy in the story, eventually putting the young ones -- and sometimes Grandma – to sleep! She recalls, “Our grandmother had many wonderful, guiding impacts on all of us, but she is especially remembered for instilling the love of reading.”
The spunky, freckled heroine of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren inspired one reader. She remembers Pippi’s fearlessness and unconquerable spirit, saying, “When Pippi wanted to do something, she did it.”
The book that resonated with me was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, the tale of a boy named Milo who, “regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all. Nothing really interested him – least of all the things that should have.” After a mysterious and rather large package is left in his bedroom, he embarks on an adventure that teaches him the excitement of learning and fully experiencing life.
Books can teach, transport, entertain, inspire, encourage and so much more. What a perfect resource for a child growing up and learning about the world.
image credit: Pixabay/free image