In an e-mail survey, Spokesman-Review adult readers were asked how their reading habits as children changed or expanded the rest of their lives. Here are some responses.
‘My paternal grandparents helped to raise me while my dad was overseas after the end of World War II and later while he adjusted to his status as a commissioned officer in the newly created U.S. Air Force. My dad was very focused on his career. I recall that he and my mother often argued. At these times, I would hide away with a book. Reading took me to different worlds. I could be a sergeant leading a charge against an enemy position. I could be an explorer on a spaceship billions of miles from Earth. The tree in the backyard became a spaceship or it was a mountain that I had to scale to rescue the lady in distress.”
Gene Gross, Sagle, Idaho
‘My parents read to me every night when I was small, but it didn’t turn me into a reader. One day my mother took me to a bookmobile. My mother asked the lady in charge which books she should check out for me. She recommended books by Beverly Cleary. I loved the stories so much I took the books out to the shop where my brother was working and read them to him. When we went to Oregon, to visit my dad’s family, I told the stories to my cousin. I would recommend all her books to young readers.”
Elaine Tormey, Sandpoint
‘From the time I was 4 until I was 18 my family lived at Priest Lake, Idaho. I attended school first in the one-room log cabin at Lamb Creek and later at the old school at Nordman. At Lamb Creek, Mrs. Allen read to us each day. Later at Nordman I was fortunate to meet the two teachers that changed my life: Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stoicheff. Each day they spent time reading great stories that captured my mind. More important, however, they made trips monthly to Spokane where they checked out for us kids literally dozens of books we wanted to read. I was able to follow the adventures of The Hardy Boys and others in an era when no other library resource was available. This made me a lifelong reader. There has been no small amount of criticism leveled at the Idaho public schools over the years. All I can say is they did all right by me.”
Clair Brazington, Nine Mile Falls
‘I somehow taught myself to read from the Sunday comic strips and children’s storybooks before I started first grade in l943. My mother read my sister and me Uncle Wiggily books every night, and there were always children’s storybooks in the house. When we moved to rural Oregon in l945, I skipped third grade. The three-room schoolhouse had a little library, and I read every book in it. I spent hours reading a book about (French) artist Rosa Bonheur, and admiring her paintings of horses, and vowed someday to go to France. Then my Uncle Al sent me “El Camino Real,” a secondhand Spanish textbook for Christmas l946, when I was 9. I read about the castle in Spain and tried to teach myself Spanish. Then one day, missionaries came to (our) church and told us about Africa. From then on, I was sold. I read everything I could about other countries, the more remote and exotic, the better. At 71, I am a freelance writer and editor and have sold over two dozen stories to anthologies, such as ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul.’ ”
Theresa Elders, Colville
‘The fourth of eight of an Oklahoma dirt farmer, reading helped put aside the poverty of my family. My parents were strict yet not abusive in the way we think of in today’s society. We never lacked for food or a roof over our heads, but any idea of gifts at Christmas, other than handmade, was a rarity. Through it all I found my best friend in a book. Books gave me a lease on a life beyond my own. I could escape and find a world where I was the hero. Marrying and having children of my own, I was able to provide a better life for them than I experienced, and I tried to instill in them a love for the written word. Not merely novels, but true accounts of extraordinary humans. My children’s success proves that I succeeded in something.”
Lee Pitts, Deer Park
‘As a child entering school in the middle 1950s, my reading was substantially delayed. Dyslexia was misdiagnosed as stupidity or simply as an unfocused child that refused to stay on task. In the first grade most children were learning to read simple sentences, whereas I found nothing familiar with words and experienced incredible frustration. My parents realized I wasn’t stupid. Rather than let me stumble within the school system, they purchased a book on phonics and drilled me on a daily basis. The constant repetition seemed to fix the orientation of letters within my brain. The turning point was somewhere in the second or third grade. The teacher was reading an interesting story that caught my attention. Every day she read another chapter. I couldn’t wait for the next day to learn what was going to happen, so I began reading on my own. I began reading four to five books a week and have yet to have my curiosity satiated.”
Doug Albertson, Coeur d’Alene
‘I can recall being very absorbed by books, first being read to and then preferring to sit in a quiet corner to leave where I was and on to a life of adventure. Eugene Field’s “The Duel” is an early memory. I made it a point to read that poem and other interesting works to my own children. At about 10, I found a complete set of Fenimore Cooper’s works and enjoyed those large, black books with the faded type in an old-fashioned writing style. I was lonely and shy as a high-schooler and took most of my experience in adventure readings. At 18, I joined the Coast Guard and then became a radio officer in the Merchant Marine where for years I read 200 to 300 pages a day as I listened to and keyed Morse code on the high seas.”
Joe Dufresne, Northport, Wash.
‘I learned the importance of reading at an early age and have attempted to pass that message on, not only to my children but all children. As a child I was part of the Head Start program, and now volunteer to read to Head Start kids in our community. Each and every time I speak to a group of youth I stress the importance of reading and writing.”
Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane County sheriff
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