I can’t remember not knowing how to read, but I do remember when I couldn’t do it very well. I was eager to have others read to me, and my parents still mention how tired they became of my requests to hear Cinderella.
As I grew up, I discovered other books. I was a huge fan of the Berenstain Bears, and when I was old enough to read novels, I fell in love with Judy Blume’s books. But it wasn’t until I was twelve, near the end of grade seven, when I came across the book that changed my life.
I remember the day I pulled it off the shelf in the library. I needed to choose a new book for silent reading time in class. When I saw The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I remembered my older brother mentioning that he’d read it. I decided to give it a try.
Grade seven was a terrible year for me, and I was miserable almost every day I spent at school. But all those bad feelings disappeared during that short period we had for silent reading.
Looking back, I can’t say for sure why this book meant so much to me. I was a preteen girl reading about two rival groups of teenage boys. I couldn’t relate to what the characters experienced, but I could relate to how they felt. I suspect most adolescents feel like outsiders.
The Outsiders also introduced me to the poetry of Robert Frost, as one of his poems is featured in the book. I quickly sought out more of Frost’s work, and he’s still one of my favourite poets.
Prior to the day I pulled The Outsiders from the library shelf, I already loved to read and write. It’s possible that, subconsciously, I knew the power of the written word. But this book allowed me to fully see, feel and understand that power for the very first time in my life. And that has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.