Yes, I know it looks awkwardly painful to read on the floor in a scroochy position like that, but that was me as a kid. I was the awkwardest nerd in Wright County, Iowa, when I was a boy. But Dr. Seuss taught me early on to read and enjoy the imaginary worlds that reading created in my stupid little head.
I don’t remember the first actual book I read, other than to firmly believe it was a Dr. Seuss book like Yertle the Turtle, or Horton Hears a Who! But I do remember the first chapter book, the first great adventure. It was The White Stag by Kate Seredy. It was the Newberry Medal winner published in 1937, and told the mythical journey of Hunor and Magyar, two brothers and leaders of two peoples who are on an epic quest to find the land where they belong by following a magical white stag.
I was nine when I read and fell in love with that book. I picked it off Miss Mennenga’s reading shelf because it was a simple red book with a plain red cover (the paper illustrated book cover had long since disintegrated in kids’ hands over time.) Red was my favorite color.
But I fell in love with the movie version that unfolded in my mind’s eye. It was when I learned to dive so deeply into a book that the characters became real to me.
The following year when I was ten the book was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Jim Hawkins was my best friend that year. That was followed by Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book. I walked around the jungle with Mowgli and Bagheera the black panther for quite a while after that.
I think it is important to often look back on the beginnings of things. This is the story of how I became a reader for life. And it matters now that I am furiously trying to cram in more books of all sorts before the end. The journey nears completion, and it helps to focus on what goals and what loves I had at the outset. Will there be reading in Heaven? I hope so. Otherwise, truthfully, I may not go.