As a youngling, I devoured entire library shelves in my hunger for delicious literature. My family frequented Hampton Library, and I would often present a stack of five to ten books at the counter for borrowing. One year, I entered the MS Readathon and clocked up 102 books. Such heights of literacy seem impossible to me these days. I mean, sure, kiddy books are shorter and snappier than the tomes I prefer lately, but still - the sheer number of stories I loaded into my little (still so little) head! My enthusiasm for reading must have been thunderous.
I've been thinking about the whole kiddy literacy thing, and I got rather misty-eyed when I remembered the old fiction serials I read so many of. Goddamn, remember Goosebumps? R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike... my boys. The kind of stuff marketed to me, however, was in the horses-and-babysitting-and-BFFs category, and yeah, I did want to start my own babysitters club at one point, very briefly, before it occurred to me that small children are infintely more terrifying than animated ventriloquist dummies forged from cursed coffin wood.
I loved, and collected, the Teen Power Inc. series by Emily Rodda. From memory, it was the only Australian series I followed. Shame! And toward the later part of primary school, I read Animorphs, that brilliant teen sci-fi/espionage/space war saga. But on the whole, I read a lot of junk: piles of ghostwritten formula books with repeating plots and occasional hints of naughty. (I liked The Fear Street Sagas, because it was set in 19th century America, and the cover artists took some liberties with ladies' bodice necklines. Is that weird for a ten year-old girl?)
I'd always been told by teachers, doting parents, etc etc etc, that I somehow had this magnificent grasp of English writing. I had impeccable spelling, used unusual words, and wrote sentences with structure and elegance (well, relatively). You mightn't believe it, but I attribute a great deal of this 'natural talent' to my addiction to junk horror fiction. It might have been ghostwritten schlock, but it was still writing: properly structured and edited, graced with the vocabularies and imaginations of many hopeful but desperate unknown writers. So thanks ...you out there... for writing for me. You weren't the greats of English literature. Your names won't be remembered. But you gave me the word, and I've got it still.
What did you read in primary school? Do you think you read more then than you do now? I mean for pleasure. Yeah, there are those among us whose textbooks ought to be measured by weight rather than page number, but what about on your day off?
I especially want to hear from the horror readers* out there. By all accounts, horror is a tiny marginal genre - but it's one I have always been drawn to, and I think it's got more friends than it thinks it does. Anyone? Anyone?
*Teen romances starring vampires do not count as horror.