Recently I have done a fair amount of reading that cased me to reflect on my childhood and on the development of my habits of being an avid reader . It is admittedly a bit mysterious where my extreme avidity to books came from. Both of my parents, and quite a few more distant relatives, have been somewhat fond of books, but not of the same kind that I read so much of nor to the same extent. My family in general has tended to stock a good deal of books related to the Bible, and reference materials are fairly common as well, but aside from this my father’s book collection was mainly focused on photography and self-help, and my mother’s fondness for romance novels as well as textbook collecting from her lengthy efforts at getting a bachelor’s degree are pretty notable. My own collection includes some striking and odd materials, including a lot of military history and more than a little bit of mediocre to great modern Christian nonfiction about a wide variety of subjects. I don’t remember being under any particular external pressure from family members to collect books to the degree that I have , nor do I know anyone who reads to the extent that I do, a task admittedly helped by my somewhat solitary existence.
How did this come to be, then? In mulling over how it was that I got to be such a prolific reader, I pondered that this habit went back a long way. In the 8th grade, for example, I won a trophy for having read more books as counted by quizzes on those books for reading comprehension than anyone else at my junior high school. Even as a thirteen year old I was recognized among my peers as being in a class of my own as a reader. The distinction may not have been celebrated by my peers, but it was definitely noticed by someone. Even before this, though, the sheer pace of my reading had drawn attention, and when I think about the beginnings of my reading books at a rapid pace, I tend to place its beginning somewhere in elementary school, and I can say with at least some confidence that my reading pace was prompted at least in part by a program sponsored by Pizza Hut, Book It. For those who do not remember this particular program, reading a certain amount of books (I think it was five) earned someone a free personal pan pizza (my choice was cheese) from Pizza Hut. I read a lot of books as an elementary school student and ended up eating a lot of cheese personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut. Given my pace of reading, I am pretty sure that I am managed to collect somewhere in the neighborhood of a free pizza every week or two at least. At my reading pace now I could conceivably fill two or three days a week with Pizza Hut pizzas were I still eligible for the program. That may be too much pizza for one person to safely or enjoyably eat, but the association of reading with eating has been an enduring one for me.
Come to think of it, I still associate reading with eating. This is no doubt a strange habit to other people, who do not tend to bring books to the dinner table as I do on a regular basis, nor do they tend to find it enjoyable to sit around and camp in restaurants while finishing books. Yet the fact that from childhood I have associated reading with food largely accounts for a great deal of my own connection of these matters. After all, knowing early on as I did that my brain was going to be the only way I was going to avoid grinding poverty or labor I was entirely unsuited for and uninterested in, intellectual development early on acquired a degree of importance that it had for few if any of my rural Central Florida neighbors. In addition to that, as someone who tended to feel as if food was scarce much of the time as a child, the fact that I could materially reduce that scarcity through my reading prowess was probably all the inducement I needed to develop what has been a lifelong habit of voracious reading. I do not know if many people have had their intellectual hunger tied to tightly to the meeting of their own physical appetites.
I have known at least a few other people who read for their supper in other ways not too dissimilar to my own. One friend of mine, for example, worked for a time at a job where he had to read through slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts. As someone who has read far more than my fair share of mediocre to outright terrible self published works, along with the occasional gem that makes me wonder why no one has published it yet, this is the sort of reading for one’s supper that would probably make someone feel a lot worse about the state of books and literature in general. As a reasonably prolific writer, I am aware of the fact that I write far more each day than many people are willing to read. In one book I recently read, the statistic was quoted that half of all fifth graders read four minutes a day or less for fun, and that the rate of reading for teens is even lower. No one who reads four minutes a day or less is going to get much of anything out of my writing, or anyone else’s for that matter. In our age there is a lot of writing going on, but most of what is being written is aimed at other people who happen to write themselves, because everyone has something to say and is looking for an audience. That is certainly true of me. I do not know if one ever stops reading for one’s supper, whether one’s eating is in the metaphorical sense of devouring books like Sara Crewe or whether in the literal sense of eating dinner because of one’s reading prowess. However one does it, hopefully one digests that which is healthy and nourishing on a variety of levels, for the habits one establishes when one is young can carry on for a long time afterward. So it was with me.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: