I was an early reader. A flexible kindergarten teacher pulled a group of parents aside and said, “It’s not on the curriculum until next year, but these kids are ready to go now,” and five of us started staying after school for a private tutorial in how to unlock the philosopher’s stone.
And we were ready. We interrupted each other to read out loud. We laughed as we decoded the only just barely post Dick and Jane literature. I read everything I could see, usually out loud—in the car, my parents would finally ask me to be quiet after miles of “no parking any time” signs read out loud.
We moved to another town, and in this house I could walk to school. I walked home for lunch along a particular route so I could read—books now, not street signs—while I walked. Our next-door neighbor was my school librarian’s mother, and after reports about my school habits, she loaned me books from her attic. My parents started making rules that I thought were anti-intellectual: no reading at the table, no reading after bedtime. My mother learned that she could not just look down the hall and see if my light was on; she had to come in my room and see if the bulb was still warm—I had figured out that I had plenty of time when I heard her on the stairs to flick off the light and get the book under the covers long before she could see me.
Now I have kids, and my parents are probably thinking, “Back atcha.” I’ve chanted my mantra down many a city block (“Why yes, that one says ‘One way do not enter,’ too”). The kids got bedside reading lamps for Christmas one year, thus ending my control over lights out. So far reading at the table hasn’t been an issue—I think they’re too hungry to do anything but eat—but books are sneaked along on just about any other activity. The kid who gets carsick pushes it to the point of nausea; they both whine when I tell them it’s time to leave the library.
But I’m willing to put up with some late nights and vague conversations, for now I have fellow readers in the house. I’ve gotten to introduce them to some of my best literary friends and they’ve returned the gesture. We help each other scour the house for the overdue books. And now they’re brainstorming with me about characters and plot. Mmmmm—we’re building a wordsmith factory.