I don’t remember learning how to read. When I got to first grade and we started learning phonics, I remember looking at the board and thinking to myself, “Well, of course it says ‘cat’! What else would it say? Is there anyone in this room that doesn’t know that?” And truth be told, I was such a little show-off, I probably leaned over to whatever unfortunate soul sat next to me and said all that out loud.
So I don’t remember actually learning how to read, but I do remember reading as a young child. I mean, reading a lot. And sometimes I would hide in some secluded spot (under my bed, in a closet, behind some random piece of furniture) (for what reason I could not tell you, it’s not like I was going to get smacked with a wooden spoon if someone found me with a book) (but I did like to be dramatic and hiding felt like a very dramatic thing to do, and this is the end of my parenthetical statements, I promise) and read for hours.
One of my favorite series growing up was The Babysitters Club. Do you remember those books? No? Perhaps a well-timed book cover image will jog your memory.
I LOVED THOSE BOOKS.
And then, after I’d read every book in the series, you know what happened? They came out with THIS:
THE BABYSITTERS CLUB LITTLE SISTER SERIES!!!
I ate all those up just as fast as my mother could drive me to the bookstore. And there was one book in the Little Sister series that struck an especially profound chord with me: Karen’s Plane Trip.
In this super-exciting Karen adventure, little Karen gets on a plane (as you may have guessed from the title) and goes to visit her grandparents in Nebraska. ALL BY HERSELF.
I would be remiss if I described myself as anything other than INTOXICATED while I read about Karen’s plane trip. She got on that plane! All by herself! And she’s only seven years old! And I don’t even know where Nebraska is but I’m pretty sure it’s nowhere near Karen’s hometown of Stonybrook, Connecticut! And OH MY GOSH KAREN IS SO COOL!
The story of Karen and her Nebraska adventure stuck with me, and before you could say “Stonybrook isn’t real,” I was dreaming of getting on a plane by myself one day. Flying off to strange, exotic places like Nebraska. Maybe even Montana. I was DREAMING BIG, people.
(Incidentally, I would still really like to go to Montana. And heck, I’d go to Nebraska, too.)
By the time I hit high school, I had the travel bug bad – and I was finally old enough to fulfill my dream of getting on a plane all by myself! In the years that followed, I would get on lots of planes and fly all over the world. I would go to Trinidad, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, The Bahamas, Portugal, Wales, Jamaica, and China. I would spend approximately fifteen minutes in Germany and maybe twenty in the Netherlands, both on layovers, and would secretly wonder if I could count those countries as having been there (the answer, I’ve been told, is no). Domestically, I would venture to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, anywhere and everywhere I could possibly get to.
I would become addicted to travel. It’s an addiction I still suffer from, actually, and as far as I can tell there’s no antidote. It’s all Karen’s fault and I completely blame her for every adventure I’ve ever taken.
Isn’t it funny how much books affect us as young readers? They can actually have a hand in forming who we become as adults. And if that isn’t a reason to write – especially for young adults and children – then I don’t know what is.