Reading has always been a passion of mine.
In kindergarten there was a girl in my class that could read and I couldn’t. It angered me that this girl, a girl that was the same age as me and lived right down the street, could do something that I couldn’t do. So, being the very ambitious and slightly envious four-year-old that I was, began to teach myself to read.
My mother was enthralled and amazed, but also increasingly supportive as my hunger for words grew. She started off with the easy books. Hop on Pop and other Dr. Seuss classics began to line my shelves, but as soon as I had finished reading a few of them my need to challenge myself grew. The simple rhyming sentences were not enough. I wanted words that I didn’t know, that I had to sound out and maybe even ask about. I wanted chapter books, not picture books — something that would last me longer than fifteen minutes. We began to take weekly trips to our local library, returning home with arm-loads of books. But they would only last me a few days and then we would have to return to the library to find more new reading material.
In first grade, my teacher was surprised to hear me breeze through words that my fellow classmates struggled with — microphone, transportation, and other multisyllabic words rolled off my tongue like a car on a freshly-paved street. Although I was ahead of my classmates, I continued to challenge myself outside of the schoolyard. I read the first four Harry Potter books over the course of a winter break. Another time, I decided to try my hand out on Steinbeck — finding his stories like The Red Pony and of Mice and Men too sad for my mind, I decided to lay off the classics for a while and instead lost myself in the fantastical worlds of C.S. Lewis and Phillip Pullman.
The passion ceased to leave me and my desire to read increased exponentially as my years on this planet increased as well. Even when I was bogged down with schoolwork, I would always find a few minutes throughout the day to flip through some pages of whatever book I was reading at the moment. Summer Reading was never a problem for me because I had almost always read one of the required books and always read more than the suggested two books. Whether it was three days or three weeks, I packed more than just a single book while on vacation because I knew no matter how long the book was, if it caught my attention, it wouldn’t last the entirety of my trip.
Wary but willing, I returned to Steinbeck this summer. I took on his soap opera of a fictional drama, East of Eden and immediately fell in love with the Trask and Hamilton family despite all of their flaws. By far one of the best books I have read in a very long time, Eden’s tale of familial conflicts and successes in California’s Salinas Valley kept me up all night until I had finished it. Maybe I was too young to understand Steinbeck’s harsh reality, too afraid and naive to face it myself. Maybe I was too hopeful, unwilling to accept that life could be as cruel as the world he depicts. Either way, I was happy that I decided to give Steinbeck another try and maybe I’ll even give The Red Pony another chance.