Thursday, July 1, 2010

Benje

I learned to read when I was three years old. That sounds a lot more impressive than it is because all I did was beg my parents to read the same bedtime story over and over every night until I memorized it. Once I could recite the entire book cover to cover, I applied my knowledge of those words and the combinations of letters I saw on the pages of the book, and quickly understood what I was looking at. After I figured that out, I was able to read other books and increase my written vocabulary by recognizing words I already knew and adding the sounds of the letters around those familiar words. It was a lot of figuring out, but from an early age, once I had a taste of something I liked, like reading, I attacked it and had to devour it entirely.

Working in a library, I run into many people who also love to read, and though I haven’t interviewed them all, I suspect they all have a book – a single, solitary book – that they can trace their love of reading back to, and will remember that book (or the essence of that book) for the remainder of their cognizant lives.

My book, which not only taught me how to read but also bred my love of books, was Benje, by Elizabeth Rice. It’s a touching story about a squirrel who loses his tail in a trap and becomes depressed because he isn’t like the other squirrels and can’t do the same things he used to as well. Eventually he’s talked to by an owl, who teaches him to appreciate what he has and learn to do things again without his tail. He does and lives happily ever after. Something about the sad, tailless squirrel spoke to me and the book just stuck.

This is the actual book, which some 34 years ago turned an ordinary child who was a veritable blank slate into a life-long reader.

I’m curious what your book is. What started you on the path of being a reader?

14 comments:

GeekChic said...

"Tubby and the Lantern" by Al Perkins (here's a pic since I don't know if I can embed pictures in Blogger comments: http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/d7/2d/64c662e89da007b504ac2110.L._SL500_AA300_.jpg).

My Dad can still recite that book from memory as he had to read so often to me as a kid!

ittybittypartoftheuniverse said...

the little house by virginia lee burton

AuDz said...

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey. Yes. The Little Golden Book.

Liz said...

Eugene the Brave by Ellen Conford.
http://www.amazon.com/Eugene-Brave-Ellen-Larrecq-Conford/dp/B000HI2PJ4/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278085359&sr=8-5
It's about an opposum that's afraid of the dark. I loved that book. :)

Leelu said...

I don't think there's just one. Or even a few. I've just loved the printed word as long as I can remember, and have no recollection of being unable to read.

Sue said...

A book entitled Animal Stories. Numerous authors contributed to the book. My mom got it for me for Christmas 1967, I was just 4! I still have the book to this day & when my daughter was little, I read her the same stories!

Kate P said...

I was an early reader, too--the story goes that my parents discovered I could read when we were making lunch and I read the mayonnaise jar label to them.

We had a lot of books around, including children's books that my parents had kept from their childhoods. I remember sitting down in a little chair at my grandparents' to read the "Dick and Jane" reader, for example.

This is totally un-PC, but we had a wonderfully illustrated "Little Black Sambo" storybook that was just so appealing. I can still picture the tiger with the fancy shoes on his ears!

Cielle said...

I don't remember just one that inspired me to read. I have early memories of a book with a boy trying to find a cat and something about a spilled bucket of milk. More distinctly, I remember reading the D'Aulaire myth books (Greek and Norse), Arrow to the Sun, Flat Stanley and Clifford over and over.

ChiLibrarian said...

The Wonderful School by May Justus, Illus. Hilde Hoffmann. Yes, also a Little Golden Book. "There once was a very unusual school. That had for its teacher Miss Tillie O'Toole...."

I LOVED that book. School looked like so much fun. I was also fascinated because it takes place in a city and I was from a very small town. It seemed so exotic and fun, too.

My Mom found a copy (mine had long since perished) and gave it to me as a gift. It's literally behind glass at my house now.

Anonymous said...

For me it was a particular Raggedy Ann and Andy set of books that were so wonderfully illustrated that I wanted to go live in their world. I'd still like to do so!

I've looked for them over the years but can't find that particular set.
VA Sends

Manda said...

I read anything I could get my hands on. The standouts for me are John Steptoe's The Story of Jumping Mouse, Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky. My first-grade class had to memorize a poem each from The New Kid on the Block. I can still remember mine as well as most of my classmates poems by heart. As an adult, I have made a point to find and own all these books.

For my daughter, her favorites are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. She is three and she knows them all by heart. She can pull them off the bookshelf and "read" them herself, getting the basic plot and words correct for the page she is on.

AnonChsHdAVB said...

Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Anonymous said...

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck and 100,000,000 Guineas Pigs by Arthur Kallet. Both books were way above my head but my parent's had 8 kids and the only books in the house belonged to my father. Sent to Catholic school, I discovered every bloody Lives of the Saints in the school library and prepared for martyrdom but am happy that I became a librarian instead.

Happy Villain said...

I love you all so much for your responses. They were great! And many of those books were completely unfamiliar to me, but others like the Pokey Little Puppy were books I loved dearly as well. (I had that book with an accompaniment of it being read on a 45 album...hehehe...part of a set of other Golden Books on album, too.) It's funny to me how book-lovers so often started off that way, almost upon conception.