I don't think that there was any chance that I wouldn't be a reader -- I think I would have found a way to get my hands on books no matter what -- but I definitely think that growing up in a household that valued and appreciated books was a huge help. When people ask me what they can do to get their children to read, I always say the same things:
*Have books in your house.
*Make sure that your kids see you reading.
*Make going to the library a fun adventure.
*Make sure that reading seems as fun to your children as watching TV, and that reading is as important in your house as TV/computer time.
*Let them explore books that interest them without saying "That's too hard for you" or "That's too old for you" -- if it's too hard or too advanced, the child will figure it out on her own and move on.
The house I grew up in was not as filled with books as my current house (we have what might be referred to as an unreasonable number of books), but we had a lot of books. I had my own books, but my parents both belonged to book-of-the-month clubs, and so every month brought some sort of interesting offering into the house. Some of those books sat on the shelves for years before I read them, but the important thing is that they were there for me when I was ready for them; when I did finally discover some of those books, the stories within them became some of my favorites that stayed with me for years. I reread some of them obsessively, until the spines were broken and the pages falling out. (Which reminds me: books are meant to be loved. Make sure you're okay with your kids dragging them about. Don't get expensive collector editions -- they should love books without being afraid to turn the pages.)
When my parents moved out of the house I grew up in, they got rid of a lot of the books that I loved when I was a younger reader. I couldn't blame them -- those editions were tattered and falling apart, and books are a hassle when you're moving. Recently, though, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the books that I read until they disintegrated to see if they were all I remember them being.
I should mention that my dad's BOTM club membership was a sci-fi/fantasy one, so the Flashback posts (which will not be EVERY Friday) will have a lot of those kinds of titles. (I've kind of always been a geek, as it turns out.)
So let's get started with Anne McCaffery's Harper Hall of Pern.
This is actually the same edition that my dad's book club sent him, and I love the cover art. I love it so much that I paid more than I should have for this book, but you know what? WORTH IT. (Especially since I'm much less likely to drop this one in the bathtub, which ... um, Dad? If you're reading this? THAT WAS AN ACCIDENT.)
McCaffery is the QUEEN of worldbuilding. Her Pern is an amazing place with a richly detailed history ... one that she creates and expounds on in forty novels, novellas, and short stories. Harper Hall of Pern contains three of those novels, and was my first encounter with Pern.
I loved it.
First, there are DRAGONS on Pern. Great big dragons, and little bitty ones called fire lizards. People kept fire lizards as pets. I wanted a fire lizard like nobody's business. A wee pet dragon? SIGN ME UP.
Second, the main character was a feisty girl, smart, talented, and misunderstood. There were not many characters in novels that I could identify with as well as I identified with Menolly, and I loved that.
Third, Pern had a whole community dedicated to music and art? Were they KIDDING? Could I MOVE there?
Alas, I could not live there, not really. But I could in my head. That's what McCaffery's books taught me, starting with this one. I already loved to read, but this was one of the first books that made me realize that reading could take you someplace entirely different, and you could live there for the time that you held the book in your hands.
I've never looked back.
That's what you give your children when you have a house full of books and the freedom to explore. You give them WORLDS.
It's a really great gift.