I read a lot as a child. My stepfather was a big reader, and so he expected that we be as well. I remember having to write book reports during summer vacation. I hated it at the time, but being a writer is more than the ability to construct a coherent sentence. Writing book reports and book reviews helps one pick apart a text and understand what makes a story work. IMO, the earlier a child starts to read, the better.
Most people have a favorite childhood book. I have dozens of them, and over the years, I’ve been trying to collect the particular editions I remember having. The ones that affected me the most.
I have a small piece of property in a very overpopulated city suburb. We do have a couple of very nice state parks within driving distance, but outside of those, wild space is relegated to storm easements, drainage ditches, waste places, and abandoned lots. We happen to have a wooded storm easement behind our house that runs for a few miles. We have fox, deer, raccoon, skunk, opossum, all manner of native birds, a variety of reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of other furry creatures desperately trying to eke out an existence. For twenty years, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the trials and tribulation of this little wondrous kingdom firsthand. A kingdom most people don’t even know exists.
I don’t hide the fact that I’m an animal lover, a gardener, a tree-hugger, and an advocate for unadulterated open spaces. We don’t own the world. We live in it, and we need to share it with all the other things that live in it. My opinions on this matter are very strong, and in part, I attribute that to my affectedness, and that affectedness I attribute to my stepfather’s love of wild places and the books I read as a child.
There is much debate on Anthropomorphism in literature. Does it give the child a distorted view of the natural world, or does it help children empathize with, and later, appreciate life very unlike their own? For me, it was the latter. Even though it was mimicry, the idea that other creatures could have social complexity and emotional depth apart from the world I lived in was an amazing idea. An idea that has stuck with me for a lifetime. Here are some of the books I had in my childhood library. I’ve even managed to find most of them in the edition that I actually had as a child, and they grace my library today. I did purchase the pictured anniversary edition of Animal Farm a few years ago simply because it was illustrated by Ralph Steadman.