I mean, really, it's all their fault that I turned out to be a novelist, because they were the one that got me hooked on books. I've been thinking a lot about what makes a person a reader and what makes someone out a non-reader and after a lot of thought and discussion with Lover, I'm pretty sure that it's all my parents' doing. (cue photograph of Baby Maggie doing the Writing Thing:)
In an attempt to be more academic and responsible sounding about it, I'm going to break down the anatomy of this particular reader into three big parts. I think these are why I'm a reader:
1) Enabling. My mom was a big enabler for our reading, growing up. She not only bought us books and took us to the library weekly, but she let us have a lot of autonomy as to what it was that we picked out at those places. I only remember one book being taken out of my hands, ever, and the rest of the time, I was pretty much allowed to read what interested me. There was never anything negative associated with reading, and in fact, it was a great way to get out of chores, because if you were reading, you were doing something useful. Unless you were reading DOGSBODY for the sixth time in a row, in which case she could think of better things for you to do with yourself.
2) Modeling. This one is definitely my dad's fault. It wasn't that my mom didn't read -- she did, especially non-fiction -- but it wasn't like the rabid novel consumption of my father. By the time I hit my teens, my father had walls of bookshelves, all full of paperbacks stuffed in sideways and longways and upways and downways because they wouldn't fit on the proper way any more. Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins. Guys with Guns Doing Things and Women. And because I wanted more than anything to be like my dad, and because I wanted to be able to talk to him about things that he was interested in, I read his novels. I jumped from Madeline L'Engle to Jack Higgins. When Jurassic Park came out in '93, I was 12, and I'd already read Crichton's original novel three times by the time we went to see it. (doesn't this explain a lot about me?) Most important, though, was the fact that my father never told me to read a book or that reading was fantastic for your brain. I just saw him with a book in his hand. So I had a book in my hand.
3) Participation. My parents both did this, but it's my dad that I remember most vividly, because he read the longer novels to us. He loved to read out loud. I have two brothers and two sisters, and the older three would all sit on my brother's bed while my dad read us Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and Tom Swift books. I'm pretty sure he read the old Nancy Drew books, not the sexalicious new Nancy Drew/ Hardy Bros. combination mysteries that I took on myself. And I'm pretty sure it was the new Tom Swift that he read, not the rather moldy smelling old paperbacks from the library. I remember he did different voices for all the characters, something that I found myself doing when I read to my two youngest siblings, years later, and still later, to my own kids. Reading could be a solitary thing, if you wanted it to be (and in a house with that many people, often that was a positive, not a negative), but it was also a way to be together.
So really, by the time I was a teen, I was sucked into reading without quite realizing why. (much like this rubber frog that I accidentally vacuumed up the other day)(it's fine)(really)(no, seriously, it's rubber, it takes a lot of punishment).
I still can't figure out why some of my siblings are big readers and some aren't (three are, two aren't), since we all had the same background. I don't think that those three things that made me a reader will make everyone a reader, but I'm developing this thesis (ohmigosh, I wish I had convinced my husband to name his new dog "Thesis" - how fantastic of a dog name is that?) that you definitely won't be a reader without them.
I sort of want to know more, though. What made you guys a reader? Are your siblings readers? If not, why do you think there's a difference?