My 23-month-old daughter (Z.) has loved books for as long as she has been aware of them. Her older sisters also enjoy reading, but, unlike Z., they have always been equally happy to participate in other activities. Z. likes art and puzzles, too, but nothing delights her more than a book.
Z. has listened to stories since birth, and while her early smiles and movements during story time were probably nothing more than an indication of gas, I prefer to think of it as the beginning of a life-long love affair with books. Unsurprisingly, “book” was one of her first words.
I am convinced Z. learned to run solely to chase her father and me around the house with a book or two in her arms. It’s adorable, but I’m afraid to admit, it’s also a little frustrating. We never want to dissuade her from reading, but sometimes we have to spend time addressing other matters in life.
One day, after telling my colleagues about Z.’s obsession with books, one of them remarked, “I wonder if that’s how writers are born,” always with a book in their hands, first ones written by others and eventually ones written by their own fingertips.
I guess so, if writers own reflections of their youth are any indication:
- Harper Lee: “Do you remember when you learned to read, or like me, can you not even remember a time when you didn’t know how?” (Letters of Note)
- Ray Bradbury: “I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt.” (Paris Review)
- Kurt Vonnegut: In response to the question, “So you’ve always been a reader?,” he replies, “Yes. I grew up in a house crammed with books.” (Paris Review)
- Jonathan Franzen: “I’d read a lot as a kid — eight hours a day all summer, some summers—but it was mostly mysteries and popular science and science fiction.” (Paris Review)
- Toni Morrison: In response to the question, “Did you know as a child you wanted to a writer?,” she replies, “No. I wanted to be a reader. I thought everything that needed to be written had already been written or would be. I only wrote the first book because I thought it wasn’t there, and I wanted to read it when I got through. I am a pretty good reader. I love it. It is what I do, really. So, if I can read it, that is the highest compliment I can think of.” (Paris Review)
Maybe Z. will fancy herself a writer someday. Either way, I hope she’ll always love books as much as she loves them now.