My mother made a pact with me when I was three: If I didn’t beg for a treat when we went marketing, she would buy me a book. So as she marketed, I perused the children’s books, bringing home Mr. Wishing Went Fishing; Bobby and His Airplanes; The Pokey Little Puppy; The Saggy Baggy Elephant; From Timbuktu to Kalamazoo; The Little Red Caboose; Fuzzy Dan, etc. My parents and siblings read those books to me. My classmates and I learned to read in first grade by way of “Dick & Jane” books.
When I was seven I read a “chapter” book my 14-year-old brother had brought home, entitled Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, an historical novel, and I joined the Weekly Reader Book Club. My third grade teacher cemented my love of literature by reading us the complete Little House on the Prairie series. By eleven I was reading books like H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines.
But reading didn’t immediately engender an interest in writing. I dreamed of becoming an airline pilot. However, that dream died when my vision went awry at twelve, 20/20 vision being a requirement of a commercial pilot at the time. I nonetheless joined a glider club that year and soloed when I was 13. It was then that I discovered Antoine de St. Exupéry, whose words reflected my own experience with flight, and inspired me to put words to paper.
Writing changes the experience of reading. It gives you a greater appreciation for a well-turned phrase and a masterfully plotted book. But reading doesn’t necessarily make one a great writer. If it did, I’d be one of the best, as I’ve read more than 1,200 novels. But it doesn’t hurt, either. It helped me write clear, grammatically correct prose. I’m only now, decades on and after more than 500 articles published, learning how to become a storyteller.