Now it's time for a childhood confession. I distinctly remember having speed reading contests with my 2nd grade rival/frienemy where I would cheat by pretending to finish a page way faster than my rival could. He'd call shenanigans, but my good friend would get my back and confirm it. My comprehension sucked. If I were a student in my current school, I'd probably be held over. (If this frienemy is reading this and remembers this contest, I relinquish my unofficial Mrs. Marcus' 2nd grade speed reading championship title to you. Congratulations, b*tch.)
I developed an appreciation and love of reading when I read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird in the 9th grade. I was drawn to the story. In 11th grade, our English teacher gave us the option of selecting books we'd want to read in a class book club. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of those books and I opted to read it once more. It wasn't out of laziness because I already knew the story. I chose it again because I loved reading it the first time and the second time around helped me discover the importance of rereading beloved books.
The love of reading that I developed continued as I expanding my reading library. I read more and more for pleasure, which I believed helped my writing. As you begin to read a certain author, you start to see patterns in their writing. I read a lot of Orson Scott Card books and noticed how much he draws connections to characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest. I began to add that sort of writing pattern to my own work.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Ender's Game won awards. I can honestly say that their awards did not influence me to want to read those books. It was the content in them that drew me in. The award is a nice recognition and honor to the author. Book awards and books put on celebrity's book club to entice people to read those books come off as very elitist and snobby. Books should be recognized based on how it captures the hearts of their readers, not because the author met some sort of criteria and was then judged by what was inside.
To this day, I still do not know what Harper Lee looks like or if the author is male or female. I can easily Google it but why ruin the mystery? I loved To Kill a Mockingbird regardless. As for Orson Scott Card, there's a lot of controversy over his religious beliefs but I haven't allowed it to influence my perspective of him as a writer. I remember trying to read Ender's Game in 8th grade. After a few sad attempts of reading it, I put it down and played my own games. It wasn't until I began to appreciate books that I picked it back up and finished it. I read the three books that followed Ender's Game and the four that was the parallel series. Reading is a lot like exercising. The person has to want it and have the motivation and drive to do it to be able to fall in love with it. It cannot be forced onto a person.
This reflection was sparked by the post masters course I'm taking in Queens College with Daniela and Rita (The band is back together!). This semester, we're taking a course on Issues in Children's Literature. The first topic we're covering is whether book awards are beginning to lose their meaning, especially those who have specific criteria for the author, not the book. For me, my interest in the book will trump any awards given to a book in determining my willingness to read it.