The Joys of Reading (by Margie Gelbwasser)

My mom still talks about the days I hated reading.

Unlike my older sister who took books with her everywhere (including parties), I had no interest. She was Rory Gilmore before there was a Rory Gilmore. My mom worried and talked to teachers and continued to worry. It wasn't like reading was hard for me. I liked the books we read in class. I was in the top reading groups. I scored great on tests. It's just not something I wanted to do in my free time.

Then, came middle school. In seventh grade I had a teacher named Margaret Shmea. She had a HUGE metal cabinet in the back of her room stocked with books. The books were in every genre and we had to read at least two books a month and try every genre. When we were done, we'd get a little quiz to make sure we actually read the book. I started the process with a groan. I'm sure I even dragged my feet to that filing cabinet the first time I had to choose a book. But that's all it took. One time. Then I was hooked. I read S.E. Hinton's THAT WAS THEN; THIS IS NOW as my first choice. Then, came THE OUTSIDERS. I devoured the realistic fiction books. Was daunted by THE SECRET GARDEN, but couldn't put it down once I started reading. Fanstasy, sci-fi, thrillers. I read them all. I loved them all. My mother's jaw dropped to the ground. Now, she couldn't get me to take my nose out of a book.

I got the reading bug in 7th grade, but it has never left me. In high school, I devoured Norma Fox Mazer, Norma Klein, Ann M. Martin, Cynthia Voigt every realistic fiction book there was. I also loved mysteries like those by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. I went through an Agatha Christie phase too. Books were everything. When mean girls arrived, when the boys I heart, heart, hearted so much dumped me or didn't look my way, when my parents annoyed me, books were constant. I could escape my thoughts and reality and travel to another's reality.

When I hear parents talk about how their kids will only read ENTER GENRE, I tell them it doesn't matter. The key is that they're READING. Expose them to as many books as you can, but if you have a reader, let him be. To me, it came down choice. When I knew I could read ANYTHING, it was freedom.

These days, I follow that rule too. I don't care if a book is a contemporary "classic" or old world "classic," if it doesn't grab me, I put it down. I may be unforgiving in this respect (I give a book 5-10 pages max to determine if I'm going to stay with it), but it is what it is. Life is too short to read what you hate, and even shorter to not read at all.


  1. I want to put the last line of your post on a T-shirt. :-)

  2. Norma Fox Mazer was one of my favorite authors too. I still have one of her books, Babyface, just because I still love that story. And I always wished I had my own "Secret Garden" like Mary Lennox did.

  3. Jenn, thanks. I should copyright it and use it as a side job. Haha :-) Neurotic, I loved that one. I loved ALL of hers!


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