Reading Through the Decades of My Life
By Laura Lanik
In the first decade of my life I was a reluctant reader. In fact, I hated reading and was in the lowest reading group by the time I was 10 years old. Reading was the last thing I wanted to do for fun. Yet I come from a long line of readers in my family and so every week we trucked to the local library and I checked out my limit in books. I carried home a big stack and they sat in the corner until they were due back, two weeks later. I never read any of them. I watched my mother, father and grandparents devour books. I knew they were important but I just couldn’t figure out why.
When I was a teenager I discovered the allure of Romance novels. I read Danielle Steel and Lavyrle Spencer and the Sunfire Teen Historical romances. In fact, I still have my Sunfire romances, and Lavyrle Spencer books on my shelf. The only books I read in high school were in 10th grade and thanks to my English teacher, Ms. Martinson. (by the way, I was still in the lower track for readers). These romance novels changed my outlook on reading and made me into the voracious reader I am today.
In my twenties and in college, I decided I loved the History in historical romances more than the romance aspect and decided on History as my major and I made a plan to teach high school social studies. I pretty much pushed the romance novel out of the way and discovered non-fiction, literary fiction and Russian Literature. In college is where I first encountered Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Alexander Pushkin, Gogol and Zamyatin and so many others. My Twenties marked my awakening into the broad world of literature and history and I was in love with the world and books.
In my thirties, I became a mother and was teaching world history full time in an inner city high school. My reading time was limited to what I could read hiding in the bathroom or the ten minutes in my car before school started or if I was lucky, twenty minutes before I fell asleep at night. I squeezed in books and reading whenever I could. I joined my first book club and I set a goal to read one adult book a month and this was ambitious. Mainly I read children’s books to my kids and the World Literature that my teen students were reading. I read anything that could enhance my teaching practice and teach me about people and culture. Therefore, I read a lot of Magic Tree House books, The Hiccup Series by Cressida Cowell, which I loved to read aloud to my son, The Wizard of Oz., The Odyssey, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achibe, The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks, and so much more.
Now I’m in my forties, life is crazy busy and I’m still reading a lot of books. My children are teenagers and I’ve been teaching World history for 20 years. I also teach two electives and a college class for future educators. My reading has branched out. My true loves are historical fiction, world literature and Nonfiction but I’ve found a place in my heart and time in my day to read poetry, short stories, memoirs, essays and listen to audio books and literary podcasts. I read a poem every morning when I wake up and before I go to sleep at night. It is such a great way to begin and end my day.
Looking back on my decades of reading, I’ve learned so much about who I was and who I’ve become. My next decade will bring new reading and literary adventures and I’m excited to learn how my reading habits and book choices will change. Bring it on.