Our Reading Lives

What’s Your Earliest Reading Memory? Tayari Jones Wants to Know

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Abby Hargreaves

Staff Writer

Abby Hargreaves is a New Hampshire native living and working as a Children’s Librarian in Washington, D.C. She fulfills the gamut of the librarian stereotype with a love of cats, coffee, and crocheting (and likes a good run of alliteration). Her MLIS degree enjoys the company of a BA in English from Hollins University, making Abby an advocate of women's universities. Her favorite color is yellow.

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.


This reader remembers saying goodnight with Goodnight Moon.


Kris learned about Patty Hearst through recitations of the Milwaukee Journal.


Wilhelmina describes the power of books even when there is a need and want for other things.


Crystal remembers her grandmother’s important role in her development.


Sarah has had a TBR since as long as she can remember.


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.


Tori shares her love for Mrs. Weiss, who read with her one-on-one.


Drew had a similar experience to mine, involving Tolkein.


Hope, with a nod to libraries, recalls Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill.


Reading was and is magic with Miranda.


Sometimes, it’s a single word that opens up the world.


Food and books have a way of finding each other, as evidenced by Rosalie’s childhood memory.


Ah, the importance of modeling the behavior we want to see in children.



Lisa, like many of us, remembers mornings of cereal ingredients.


Harry Potter is sure to show up in many first-reading memories.


Monise, showing us all up with an early encounter with the encyclopedia.


Dr. Ken gets a hug of a memory in the form of nursery rhymes.


Reading, making caregivers proud since the beginning of time.


More library love!


Jenn took the lead in her family.


Letisha got her reading start with a Dr. Seuss classic.


Sonia also got her start with Dr. Seuss, and a title mentioned many times in responses.


Spite reading is the best kind of reading.


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!