This week’s challenge asks us to write about fond childhood memories of books. The problem for me is defining “childhood.” Should I include favorites from my teenage years too? Or do I only write about books from before I had any responsibility, my pre-schooling years? I suppose I can define it any way I want, so I’m going to just write from my first experience with chapter books on to books that had a profound impact on me while I was growing up, including some of my favorites from the required reading I did in High School.

So let’s start with my first-ever memory of a chapter book. This goes all the way back to about first or second grade and is my most cherished reading experience. The book was actually the Ralph S. Mouse series by Beverly Cleary and the reader was actually my mom. It took us months to get through these books, as she read them to me at bedtime and I often fell asleep while she was reading (although it was more often that I’d still be awake and beg her to read a second chapter). I don’t remember much about these books aside from them having been about a mouse with a motorcycle, a car, or what have you. He had fun adventures. I remember that. What I remember most though was that cherished time with my mom that I rarely got as I grew older (it’s not easy to get personal time with the ‘rents when you have eight siblings). Other books I remember her reading to me were about the Littles, Ramona Quimby, Amelia Bedelia and something about a sock-eating monster under the bed (couldn’t find it on Amazon).

Once I was reading on my own, I loved series books. I read The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and The Boxcar Children all the way up until fourth grade, where I discovered Roald Dahl and quickly set out conquering the stack of books he had written. Matilda was my all-time favorite and I read it over and over and over again. The only book to this day that I have ever re-read. I also absolutely loved Island of the Blue Dolphins.

In middle school I don’t remember reading much. I’m sure I read, but it was a time of turmoil in my life. We moved at the end of my sixth grade year, then just as I had established my new best friends and figured out the town my dad announced another move, planting me in a brand new school for my first year of high school as well.

In high school I was required to read, and those books are what I remember most. I know I read other books as well because I was often caught reading a book behind the book I was supposed to have been reading. I’d also read my brothers’ and sisters’ required reading books that they brought home from middle school since I’d missed out on them (I don’t remember there being quite as much required reading in Utah as there is in California).

From this required reading I remember The Giver (which was actually from my younger sister’s list). That book I think was the first thing to make me wonder about where technology is taking us and what our society would be like if we were to become a “utopia.” I remember being shocked to realize that taking away everything bad in our world and shielding people from the realities of life doesn’t necessarily make life better. This book may well have been the most influential book I read as a child.

Then there was The Good Earth – my first book by a feminist. And after that was Ender’s Game, which then sent me on an Orson Scott Card binge for my remaining years of high school.

Of all the required reading though, the one that surprised me most as a favorite was Hamlet. Each year we were required to read a Shakespeare play and each year I would read it and wonder why on earth everyone admired Shakespeare so much. But my senior year I had an amazing English teacher who finally was able to help me understand the Shakespeare thing. Granted, I’ve never tortured myself through another of his plays, but I did enjoy Hamlet. I still have my copy with all of its highlighting, notes in the margins and post-its poking out in all directions. Shakespeare and John Steinbeck remind me that even if I don’t like one book by an author, I should try some of their other stuff before writing them off completely. Sometimes they end up surprising me.

So, what were some of your childhood memories with reading? Some of your favorite books? Authors?