When I was nine years old, a collection of books changed my reading habits forever. I can even remember exactly which book made me become an avid reader, and how reading went from being something I liked to do in class, to something I couldn’t live without.
Many years later, I still hold Uma Aventura by authors Ana Maria Magalhães and Isabel Alçada (a Portuguese set of adventure books with no translation to English, unfortunately) close to my heart; they led me to a path I am more than grateful for. Books are magic, and I hold that magic in my hands every day thanks to a single story I picked up as a child.
With this in mind, I’ve asked Book Riot contributors to share with all of us the very first books that made them the readers they are today.
The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain
When I was in the first grade, I was deemed to be an “advanced” reader, so two other classmates and I would be brought to the school library during the class’s story time once a week or so for our own independent reading time. Every week, I would head straight for the library’s collection of Berenstain Bears books and read about their latest antics. Once I was through those, I moved on to Roald Dahl and other chapter books, becoming a voracious reader and user of the school library
The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin.
There were picture books I loved as a kid but nothing fueled my desire to read more than The Babysitter’s Club. My older sister would read them to me before I could read them myself and that got me started on the Babysitter’s Club Little Sister books. But those were just a placeholder until I could get my hands on the “real” BSC books. Once I did, I devoured them feverishly–the regular series, the Super Specials, the mysteries, the Super Special Mysteries, etc. The Babysitter’s Club taught me to love reading (and writing) and I’ll always be grateful to Ann M. Martin for that.
Dear America series by Multiple Authors.
I annoyed the poor librarian at my elementary school by asking every day if there was a new Dear America book available (sorry Mrs. Mroch). These books chronicle major events in US history, everything from the Mayflower to the Gold Rush, all told through the journal of a young girl. I continued to believe that these were actual diaries longer than I care to admit. I liked the books for their storytelling, but also because they had awesome ribbon bookmarks. My personal favorites were the Titanic and Oregon Trail ones—because what’s child lit without a little dysentery and giant icebergs?
The Blob That Ate Everyone by R.L. Stine and Redwall by Brian Jacques.
I was a reluctant reader, in that I read books slowly and didn’t realize that I loved them. My fourth-grade teacher had a bookshelf filled with a lot of Goosebumps novels whose covers creeped me out. Then I got up the courage to read one horror story, involving a vintage typewriter, and I got hooked. Redwall had a slow start, but once it got to the snake the story picked up the pace.
Goosebumps by R.L. Stine.
For 8-year-old me, the Goosebumps series was like my imagination synthesized into story. I was the kind of kid that still needed a nightlight, that snuck into my parent’s bed when the nightmares became too much, that, yes, still sucked my thumb and carried around the remnants of a blankie. But the Goosebumps series let me resolve those nightmares, and I loved them. I would carry a stack to school and try to finish my busy work as fast as possible so I could have extra time to read. I combed used bookstores to find the ones I was missing. I even wrote a short story and entered it into a Goosebumps’ writing contest (alas, my pirate-ghosts short story did not win). It wasn’t long after that I discovered Stephen King, and began reading adult books for the first time. It may seem like a leap in reading levels, but I had no difficulty navigating from one to the other. Eventually, I switched from horror to fantasy, but Goosebumps enabled me to move from middle grade reading to adult reading, and it also showed me, all unknowingly, that escapism can help me to face my fears.
Sweet Valley Kids by Francine Pascal.
Once I learned to read in kindergarten, I was given my first chapter book – the Sweet Valley Kids series – and oh man, I didn’t look back. My world was all about Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. I knew that Lila Fowler was just about the best name anyone could ever come up with (I would change my mind when I met Eustacia Vye in Return of the Native, but that would be over a decade later). These were the books I stayed indoors reading, suddenly not so interested in playing outside. These were the pages that I smudged with my Dunkaroos and Handi-Snacks, my early reading snackage. I think because of these books, I adore female narrators, ensemble casts, and both antagonism between sisters in books and also, love and faith in sisterhood as well.
Which books changed your reading life forever? Share them with us!