The Storytelling Bug: Roots in Childhood?

In a lovely post with beautiful photos (they look hand-tinted), “Dara,” who describes herself as “a twenty-something year old Christian and an aspiring historical fiction writer,” posed some interesting questions:

  • Do you remember what age you started to read?
  • What were some of your favorite books as a child?
  • Were there any children’s books that inspired you?

For Dara, who says she is “currently … working a novel, set in Japan in 1890″ (which is titled Chrysanthemum Promise, also the name of her blog), the answers to these questions point to her life-long love of storytelling.

For those, like me, with a passion for storytelling, these questions are as good as any for getting at the roots of the passion.
I don’t think there was anything extraordinary about the age at which I learned to read. Like most kids in my era, I learned in the first grade. I do remember taking to it exceptionally quickly and impressing teachers with my skill. They often wanted to place me in advanced reading groups, even ahead of my grade level. I was amused at Dara’s comment: “And of course, it was my duty as a big sister to teach my little sister how to read.” I had not realized that the little-sister-reading-tutelage I undertook with my sister Robin was a common activity. The fact that she could read well before school was often cited as a reason she was so bored with school and had difficulty attending.

I also know I was read to as a child, as in the photo above, and my father also told a continuing story with me as the protagonist: A little girl named Kathy rode her pony, Stormy, down a lane and met various critters along the way. Stormy was real; the critters were made up.

And I read voraciously as a child. The book I read the greatest number of times was Pollyanna. I was in a children’s book-of-the-month club that sent wonderful books ranging from one about Angelique the duck to “chapter books,” like Herman the Brave Pig, and biographies. I loved books by Frieda Friedman, Beverly Cleary, Catherine Woolley, who also wrote under the name Jane Thayer (I just googled her and saw that she died at age 100 in 2005 and had written 87 children’s books).

Books that inspired me? I don’t think I can single one out, but those writers cited above made me want to be a writer because they wrote about characters, often young girls, that I could identify with.

As a pre-teen, I tried my hand at writing a children’s picture book — something about a little girl who wanted to become an “ambassador-ess,” succeeded in doing so and put on a parade for her constituents. I also recall book ideas involving the phrases “The Platinum Pencil” and “The Florentine Ballet” (these might have been part of the same book idea).

Dara also discusses how she and her sister invented stories involving their dollhouse people. These “games of imagination” were the stuff of my childhood, and, I’m sure, a major incubator for my story passion. They involved playing “house,” “baby and mommy,” “brother and sister,” “horses and men,” Barbies (later devolving into Barbie’s Prostitute Service — I kid you not), trolls, “trading post,” and more.

I had not previously connected early reading with my fascination with storytelling, and I’m grateful to Dara for providing this food for thought. How would you answer Dara’s questions, and to what extent would you connect the answers with your interest in storytelling?

2 thoughts on “The Storytelling Bug: Roots in Childhood?

  1. My mother inspired me to read. When I was young, she would read to us in the evening. Since as Mennonites, we had no television, reading was our form of entertainment. She read the Children’s Bible stories as well as the books in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. She would check books out from the church library and read to us. I went on to obtain a degree in English.

    I continued the tradition with my daughter. When she was four, I read her the Hobbit by Tolkien. When she was nine, we read the Xanth series by Piers Anthony together. My daughter developed a deep love of fantasy and went on to obtain her Master’s in English. She prefers to read literature prior to the 20th century. She loves Shakespeare and can read him without at translator. I prefer literature of the 20th century and don’t like to read Shakespeare. We attribute her interest in Shakespeare to my reading Tolkien to her at a very young age. Tolkien was a Medivalist.

    I think parents should read to their children and tell them stories.

  2. I feel honored by your post!

    Anyway, I always find it interesting to see how everyone learned how to read and how it affects their lives now.

    Thanks again for posting!

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