I don’t remember how old I was when I consciously picked up a book to read. My parents were both schoolteachers, and my dad also wrote on the side, so it was taken for granted that everybody in the family would read without much prodding.
One of my fondest childhood memories was my dad’s arrival after Sunday morning service with bags of used books from Booksale. These were brought by his boss’s son, Sam, who was in medical school in the big city.
Everybody in the house (from my parents down to us girls) would excitedly take out the books and fight over who got first dibs on which novel.
My dad, of course, being the wide reader that he is, would choose the writers he knew very well or stories he deemed interesting based on their back cover blurbs. I would stand by, reading whatever was left in the pile, and wait for days until he finished a particular book. You can say that I read books that my father, unknowingly, chose for me.
I was twelve when I first heard of Pearl S. Buck. I read The New Year because a Sunday magazine said the story was similar to Miss Saigon, and since I was a big fan of Lea Salonga, who played Kim in that musical on West End (later in Broadway), I did (and I remain grateful for it).
It was at this age that I discovered Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, or the very handy four-novels-in-one. I read condensed versions of Love Story and Joy in the Morning, and they got me eager to run off to college and fall in love. To this day, I still have a soft spot for the hardbound Condensed Books and never skip Booksale without looking at the titles.
Now that I am a parent, I never cease to be amazed when my son willfully chooses books over television. While I make it a point to read him a bedtime story when I could (last night’s was a condensed version of Dean Alfar‘s “The Maiden and the Crocodile”), I find that I don’t need to bribe him or withhold some DVD viewing time to get him to read.
And I have it easy there. Quite easy, thank you.
Photo credit: Ricky Manzano of Project Manila.