I remember reading constantly as early as the 2nd grade, although I was probably reading earlier than that. But I remember learning (at least based on the assessment level of the book collection I was reading at the time) that I was reading at a 6th grade level while in 2nd grade. (Does anyone else remember SRA reading cards? Are those still a thing?) I also remember that reading was mostly what girls did—at least they are the only ones I remember talking about books—and they mostly read books about horses.
My allowance around that time was $2.00 a week at a time when paperback books cost about $0.65, so I could usually afford to get three books every week. But when the prices increased to $0.75, I became extremely unhappy because I could only get two books one week, and then have to wait a week to be able to afford to get three of them, and then only two the next week, and so on. When the prices increased to $0.95 and then, alas, $1.25, the situation became rapidly unmanageable, so I was forced to start re-reading books that I had already purchased. (There was the public and school libraries, of course, but their selections of science fiction was extremely limited.)
The books that I remember the most from those years include:
- The “Encyclopedia Brown” series taught me a deductive reasoning. (If there was ever a book series that deserved to be a television series for older children, this is it.) It became a personal game with me to see if I could put together the clues and figure out the solution of the mystery before reading it at the end.
- Although there was an entire of series of “Danny Dunn” books (which our local library did not have the complete set of, so I learned the joys of inter-library loans), I can see now where my fascination with computers began.
- I don’t know what led me to start reading the “juveniles” from Robert A. Heinlein, but I think I discovered Have Space Suit, Will Travel first at a bookstore, then Time for the Stars not too long afterward. Time for the Stars always stuck with me even years later.
- I discovered Isaac Asimov through a copy of Nine Tomorrows that was missing its cover. I don’t remember now where I found it, but I still have it, and it introduced me to a whole new set of stories and ideas and authors.
- At the local mall bookstore (where we went almost weekly), I discovered this book. Although I remember that it took me several months to decide to buy it because there were other books, such as the other Heinlein novels, that I wanted the read first. But reading this book changed everything.
- And, in 7th grade, our English Literature teacher introduced us to The Hobbit, and I discovered epic fantasy — which, of course, immediately led to reading “The Lord of the Rings” next … and then and then and then.
I’ll stop there, because around that time I started reading more “adult” science fiction and fantasy. (But it sure was a fun trip down memory lane trying to locate the book covers that I remembered for each of these books!)