Many of us enjoyed story time events at libraries, day care, and school growing up, but who remembers those moments? Maybe you recall a caregiver reading bedtime stories while you cuddled your favorite stuffed animal, listening to the adventures of the three pigs in “The Three Little Pigs.” Maybe your first grade teacher read from My Father’s Dragon over a period of weeks during circle time. Maybe the first time you remember someone reading to you was your best friend at college, who shared their favorite poems with you on perfect fall days on the quad. Or maybe your earliest memory of interacting with printed material was reading yourself! Whatever it was, it was certainly a magical time.
My parents both read to me frequently growing up, particularly at bedtime. Dad incorporated his own sound effects—in which I could choose to participate—into the Disney Little Golden Book edition of The Three Little Pigs. Mom favored 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert, a copy of which I believe still sits in my parents house, flaking and falling apart, but still beloved. Now, my parents read to their grandchildren regularly, and I’ve developed a love of books over the years and become a children’s librarian, where I read at regular story times every week.
The first specific moment I recall, however, being read to was an instance when my dad decided to introduce my brother and me to The Hobbit. The two of us lay on my parents’ bedroom floor at the foot of their bed, while Dad opened the novel from his side of the bed, his nightstand light on in addition to the overhead light with the fan. Ethan and I lay quietly with our hands clasped under our heads while Dad painted pictures with his voice and Tolkien’s words. Of course, The Hobbit is not terribly well-suited to reading aloud. Tolkien’s winding and lengthy sentence structure can make for a tough follow-along, but it wasn’t about the story or the words—it was about spending time with my family, and a moment of my dad that I’ll remember and cherish forever.
There’s no doubt that reading and reading to children is paramount to their development, both cognitive and emotional. And while many of us were read to as children for the first time, some of us were adults when we first remember a significant moment of written words being read to us. When Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage, (@tayari) asked other Twitter users to share their earliest memories of reading or being read to, readers rose to the occasion. Here are some of the best responses to Jones’s question.
What is your earliest memory of reading or being read to?
— Tayari Jones (@tayari) November 23, 2018
This reader remembers saying goodnight with Goodnight Moon.
My mom reading Good Night Moon to me every night. However, there is a pic of me at three sitting on the bed reading a newspaper.
— … (@Prettybrains08) November 24, 2018
Kris learned about Patty Hearst through recitations of the Milwaukee Journal.
My foster father read the Milwaukee Journal out loud to me every day. I remember reading the words myself at about 4. I learned history, politics, health. I keenly remember reading about Pattie Hearst at 6.
— Kris A. Newman (@KrisANewman) November 24, 2018
Wilhelmina describes the power of books even when there is a need and want for other things.
I can’t remember not reading. My father worked in NW DC and we lived in an apartment in NE. He rode the bus back and forth. Every day I would run down the hill to meet him and he would have a new book for me. Golden Books; Wonder Books. We had no car, but I had books.
— Wilhelmina Jenkins (@minadjenkins) November 23, 2018
Crystal remembers her grandmother’s important role in her development.
My grandmother read to me so much that I could read on a third grade level in headstart. The beginning.
— crystal wilkinson (@CrystalWilki) November 24, 2018
Sarah has had a TBR since as long as she can remember.
When I was around 2 I would take a stack of 10 or so books into my crib at nap time. Evidently I would flip through each one and then sleep, every day.
— Sarah Randall (@cookcanread) November 23, 2018
Rene took on the role of reader for her brother.
Genea is grateful for the love of reading her mother gave her via “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and her stellar voice acting abilities.
My mother reading 3 Billy Goats Gruff and doing the voices! It still brings a smile to my face over forty years later! Reading is an awesome gift. Thank you Mama! pic.twitter.com/iLukGvijNo
— Genea Monroe (@gtmonroe1999) November 24, 2018
Tori shares her love for Mrs. Weiss, who read with her one-on-one.
In kindergarten I was a slow at learning how to read so I went to this program called Reading Recovery where kids learned to read 1 on 1 w/ a teacher. I still remember my teacher Mrs. Weiss who helped me learn to love books!
— Tori Halligan (@notorioustdh) November 24, 2018
Drew had a similar experience to mine, involving Tolkein.
My Dad read me Tolkien before I could read.
— Drew Johnson (@DrewalsoKermit) November 23, 2018
Hope, with a nod to libraries, recalls Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill.
Love this question. My best clear memory is reading the library copy of Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, and wanting to live in its world of friendship and adventure.
— Hope Dellon (@hopedellon) November 24, 2018
Reading was and is magic with Miranda.
I distinctly remember reading Little Bear and feeling my brain soar for the first time. It was a magic trick that I was doing! I was four. We were living in rural Senegal. I was in the front room of our mud hut, sitting with my mama. My grandmother had sent the book from Ohio.
— Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (@MirandaBW) November 24, 2018
Sometimes, it’s a single word that opens up the world.
I remember the first word I ever read on my own. It was WATER, printed on a drain in a Baltimore street.
I was two years old, walking with my granddad. I can still remember how proud he was, and how happy it made me. I'll never let go of that memory. pic.twitter.com/W0ahlONpAq
— JaysonElliot (@JaysonElliot) November 24, 2018
Food and books have a way of finding each other, as evidenced by Rosalie’s childhood memory.
You know it’s funny there must have been a time but I don’t remember NOT being able to read. I remember not being able to swim. I used to sit at the kitchen table and read to my mommy while she cooked. I was very young.
— Rosalie Lee (@LeeMirandaLee) November 23, 2018
Ah, the importance of modeling the behavior we want to see in children.
Lisa, like many of us, remembers mornings of cereal ingredients.
I’m dyslexic & couldn’t read independently until 5th grade. I remember sitting at the kitchen table & reading the ingredients on the cereal box w/no problem.
— Lisa Nelson-Haynes (@momsamango) November 23, 2018
Harry Potter is sure to show up in many first-reading memories.
My mom reading Harry Potter to me and my siblings as a bedtime story <3
— Emily Polson 👻 (@emilycpolson) November 24, 2018
Monise, showing us all up with an early encounter with the encyclopedia.
Not earliest, though. I read encyclopedias as a kid. Damn nerd. 😂😂😂
— Monise L. Seward (@MoniseLSeward) November 24, 2018
Dr. Ken gets a hug of a memory in the form of nursery rhymes.
I remember my mother reading stories to me from this book as a kid. It’s a hug of a memory. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/EuA37EBmox
— Dr. Ken Carter (@DrKenCarter) November 24, 2018
Reading, making caregivers proud since the beginning of time.
Mom caught me reading to myself. She got very excited when I sighed instead of reading the word. It was such a confidence boost. I've loved reading ever since.
— The Ke (@Kakes_Murray) November 24, 2018
More library love!
My most vivid memory related to books was going to the Lorain Public Library with my mom, having my own card, and checking out a big stack of books. We rode our bikes there because we did not have a car. I loved going to the library with my mom.
— Jane from Lorain (@LorainJane) November 23, 2018
Jenn took the lead in her family.
I’m reading to my Dad – circa 1982 (?) pic.twitter.com/r5hcEsGbfX
— Jenn S (@jennstri) November 24, 2018
Letisha got her reading start with a Dr. Seuss classic.
Reading one fish two fish, red fish blue fish on my own for the first time!
— Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, PhD. (@letisha122) November 24, 2018
Sonia also got her start with Dr. Seuss, and a title mentioned many times in responses.
Learning how to read “Green Eggs & Ham” and actually being rewarded with green eggs and ham as a meal.
— Sonia Hazard (@SRHazardATL) November 24, 2018
Spite reading is the best kind of reading.
I read the letters on the K-Mart sign from my car seat when I was 2 1/2. The reason I remember it is because my mother made me do it three times, then read some other letters on other signs as well, because she didn’t believe I was really reading. I was angry.
— Hanne Blank (@hanneblank) November 24, 2018
Check out Tayari Jones’s thread to see other great responses and fond memories of books and reading. And tell us in the comments what your answer is!