When growing up did your family share your love of books? If so, did one person get you into reading? And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading? (Family trips to bookstore, reading the same book as a sibling or parent, etc.)
It comes with the heading INDOCTRINATION, although I don’t think of what happened to me as indoctrination, more as wonderful memories. My father read me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when I was about four or five. I remember the green cloth cover (yup, still green, faded now in a strip where the sun’s got to it, with a red half-moon at the top and Tenniel’s illustration of Alice shaking hands with the mock turtle, 1954 Macmillan edition … obviously I’ve still got it, I’ve just checked those details) and I can still recite (decades later):
You are old father William, the young man said,
And your hair it has turned very white.
And yet you continually stand on your head,
Do you think at your age that is right?
I blame Father William for the yoga I took up, and still take up … and although I’m sure the verse is not word-perfect (I haven’t checked) it’s pretty close, and that’s after fifty+ years … . My father – and his name was William – also read me Through the Looking Glass (extra details: Alice and the red and black queens in the half-moon, 1956 edition) when I was about five or six and I can remember the room (white-pillared gas fire, him in an armchair, me on the floor, or sitting on his knee, Tenniel’s illustrations, his voice, smell-of-book heaven).
These readings alone are responsible for my love of books, my belief in the power of fiction sometimes to solve problems that real life can’t, and the fact that I write fiction now. (And the fact that I believe that absolutely anything can be the subject for a work of fiction.) They’re also responsible for my love of oral storytelling.
My parents also subscribed to World Books (do they still exist?) which meant that an exciting parcel arrived – how often? – every two weeks? – with a novel inside it which, once read, was proudly added to the bookshelves. Lark Rise to Candleford was a favourite title of mine, for its poetry. I can’t remember the subject matter of Flora what-was-her-name’s novel, but I know I read it all those years ago. Thompson! That’s what she was called.
Years later, when yearning to write but not daring to take time off work, my father lent me some money so that I could. When I took him a cheque to pay him back, he said, ‘Thank you, but I don’t want it, darling. Think of me as your first publisher.’
I still do.
PS: Edited to include: after reading the replies to this week’s BTT, I want to add that the day our local librarian said to my mother that I’d read everything in the children’s section, so I’d have to move on to the books in the adult section (aged 9) is still one of the proudest days of my life!