I learned to read when I was very young, about two or three years old. I do not really remember it, but my Mom is always telling me the story of how I learned to read. Apparently there was a stack of books that I absolutely would not go to bed without having them read to me. My Mom read them to me so often that I memorized the books. Then I started recognizing the words from my books in other books and places, and viola, I was reading!
I was a voracious reader. I would read everything I could get my little hands on, from the cereal box in the morning, to my own small library, to books that my brother, who is six years older, was reading. One vivid memory I have is when we were moving from Virgina to Rhode Island when I was about five years old. I think I read every sign and billboard that we passed along the way! I am sure I drove both of my parents and both of my brothers nuts during that trip.
I do not remember if I ever had a library card in Virgina, but I remember my first library card from the Newport Public Library. I was so proud of that card! I would beg my Mom to take me to the library every weekend. I think I checked out my limit (which was probably ten books) every time, read them cover to cover, and brought them back for a new set. The librarians knew my name, and they knew that even though I was young, I wanted books with words, not pictures.
Another vivid memory I have is from my first day of kindergarten. We were given a tour of the school, from the gym to the lunchroom to the library (which happened to be next to my kindergarten classroom). The librarian was showing us where the picture books were located and told us that when we learned to read, she would show us where the early reader books were. I raised my hand and asked if she could show me where they were now, since I already knew how to read. She laughed in that condescending way that adults tend to do with smart ass little children and said that she would show me when the time was right. Now even at five I had a rebellious streak, and she set it off that day. I grabbed the nearest book from the shelf and started to read from it out loud. I not only shocked the librarian, but my teacher and my fellow classmates. Needless to say, I was immediately tested and placed into a first grade classroom for reading group and for other lessons. I did not get skipped to the first grade (that was at my parent's request), I just spent my morning in first grade and returned to kindergarten for playtime and other social activities.
I am lucky that books were always made available to me when I was a child. My parents were both avid readers, and much of my early reading habits tended to follow their tastes. My Mom read a lot of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and other suspense books. My Dad read mostly military and sci-fi books, although he loved Michael Crichton (as did I throughout fifth grade through middle school). I did not really develop my own reading tastes until high school.
We did not keep most of the books I had as a kid. When we moved to Florida, we gave them away to family, friends, and donated them to libraries. I have recently begun to acquire some of my favorite childhood books, from early readers (lots of Dr. Seuss and a book called But No Elephants) to early chapter books (lots of Roald Dahl and my favorite childhood book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). I keep my children's books on my old childhood bookcase in my guest room (which I supposed may eventually be a nursery).
My love of reading has never wavered, even if I went for several years (mostly throughout grad school) not reading for pleasure. I may not make enough time for it even now, but the love remains.