Avi WordCraft blog

Becoming a Reader

Devil's RaceA reader recently posted this message on my Facebook page.

I remember checking out Devil’s Race from the school library when I was in sixth grade. That book is what made me a book lover. I just recently found it again, after searching for over 20 years. I finished it again today and even at 39 years old, it’s still as awesome as I remember it being when I was a kid. Thank you.

Aside from the pleasure of receiving such a note, it reminded me of something I have heard over the years: About the ONE book that turned someone into a reader.

Angle of ReposeMy wife was such a person. She has told me that until she read (as an adult) Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose she had not been a reader. “What was it about the experience of reading that book that turned you into a reader?” I asked. Her response: “I discovered myself in that book.”

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter of reading psychology, but I find that answer, not just fascinating, but important. Ultimately it is the best rational for the push for diversity in books. But ultimately, I suspect her answer works for all would-be readers in search for books, which, in time, they discover are mirrors for their soul.

My favorite version of this experience is about my son, Kevin.

The WouldbegoodsHe was, I recall, about eight years old. My nightly read to him was Edith Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods, a humorous tale of a group of English, Edwardian kids, who are trying to hold their family together when their mother dies.

As far as I was concerned the plot and the main character could not be further removed from my son. But Kevin loved the book, and its protagonist, Oswald.

One night he said—knowing of letters my readers sent to me—”Dad, I’d like to write to the author of that book.”

“That’s lovely Kevin, but I’m afraid you can’t.”


“She died a long time ago.”

Kevin sat bolt upright in his bed. “That’s impossible!” he cried.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because she knows so much about me.”

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