Once Upon a Time When I Hated Reading by Brittney Vrzak

Over the years, there have been many authors and books that made me stop and say to myself “yeah, this person has created a wonderful thing, has moved me with his/her words and I want to do that too. I want to make someone move with my words (even if that someone is only just myself).” Yes, there has been many an author and many a book that made me go ‘ooh’ but I can’t pinpoint the first one that made me decide I wanted to be a writer. I can’t say exactly when or how the idea that I wanted to be a writer sprouted out of my unconscious and crept into conscious consideration. There were too many contributing factors to that eventual decision and I can’t definitively say which one was the first that inspired my writing career. But I can, however, say without doubt or hesitation what the first book I ever loved was.

My love affair with this book began in third grade. At the time, I hated reading. Reading and writing all seemed like such a horrendous waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I liked being read to, I liked hearing stories. I loved it when my parents would read to me and my siblings at night but reading by myself was never something I was interested in and certainly not for leisure; that was out of the question. I had better things to do with my time – I had tag to play and monkey bars to climb. I hated reading the boring books my class and I were required to read. Every day after recess, during the time of day when most of the kids would sit and listen to the teacher read to the class, I was sent to special reading classes because I was so terrible at it. It wasn’t that I had a disability – I was a relatively capable student – I was simply unmotivated and resolutely uninterested. And being the little brat that I was (and sometimes still am) no one could make me do anything I didn’t want to do, even if it was required by the school curriculum. And although our class went to the library every week so the librarian could advocate for the wonder of books, I was always thoroughly, almost willfully unimpressed… until I found the Pokémon Handbook.

It was during this third grade year of mine that I became aware of the Pokémon phenomenon. Like many other hooligans my age, I too was taken with this story about ten year old children traveling the countryside without supervision, beating wild, super-powered animals into submission, capturing them and training them to beat up other people’s super-powered pets – it was awesome (although I think the violent overtones were lost on me and my peers at the time). I wanted to watch the show and play the games. I had to know everything I could about this Pokémon thing.

One day while at the mall with my mother on some kind of errand, I laid eyes on the Pokémon Handbook which contained within its covers everything there was to know about the Pokémon universe. I decided immediately that I wanted it. I quickly gathered my courage and asked my mother if she would get it for me. This was something I almost never did because anytime I asked my parents for anything unnecessary, when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas time, they almost always said no. On this particular occasion, my mother said yes and gave me what I wanted, probably only because she was pleasantly shocked that I wanted a book, a piece of reading material, a leafy thing stuffed full of words!

I devoured that book. I read it front to back over and over again. I loved the front cover off that thing. If I didn’t understand what something meant (which happened frequently given my limited reading experience) I would ask someone what it meant and if they didn’t know, I would look it up.  Much to the shock of my teachers and parents, I was soon reading fluently, easily understanding words and concepts that were well above my reading level when only weeks before I had been a novice white-belt in the art of reading. My parents could finally breathe a sigh of relief – thank god, she isn’t illiterate. I was invested in that book, in unlocking the top secret information held inside. As you may have concluded, the book wasn’t truly top secret but it felt that way to me. It felt like that book was sharing something… private, like the information this Pokémon Handbook had to impart was for me and me alone. This was something I had never experienced before because I had never sat down to read a book by myself before. It was the first book I really wanted to read, not just have someone read it to me. It was the first book that I really loved because I discovered its secrets all for myself.

Now, many years later, not only am I not illiterate but I’ve somehow managed to become a college student who is about to graduate with a degree in English. I’ve become a ravenous reader, a decent writer (if I don’t say so myself) and I’m interning as an editing assistant. Life’s funny like that.

What about you? What was your first book-love?


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