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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Discussion Topic: Some Books Are Like Gateway Drugs to Reading

To every generation there is one book that saves the illiterate youths from a life that is void of adventure, imagination, creativity, escape, and knowledge. This book gets them addicted to the drug that is reading, motivating them to search the world for their next venture.

For my generation, it started with Harry Potter. A book that not only sold millions of copies and made billions of dollars, but was also translated into hundreds of languages and even improve literacy rates in teens!!! (And 8 beautiful movies! Who just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? I did!)

A few years later, my generation and the next were hit with a little thing called The Twilight Saga. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not living on this planet. Twilight went from the mind of a housewife, was shot down by 14 agents, was finally picked up by Little Brown, and went on to follow closely in the tracks of Harry Potter with a crazed fandom and a movie contract.

What’s next? Before I knew it, people who had never read a day in their lives were reading more than I do. (And that’s saying SOMETHING!) In a world where teens were once the least likely to pick up a book, things have started to happen. The young adult section at Borders has quadrupled, my cousins and friends are asking for books for Christmas, and they’re reading for pleasure. That’s all it took; one book that just happened to grab them by the imagination and the heartstrings and sent them on the biggest trip of their lives.

(NOTE: I KNOW there are people out there who are going to call one or both of these books crap, but I am asking you now to understand what these books have done for the kids that I know. Imagine a 14 and 17 year-old girl who have never finished a book in their lives, never found pleasure in the escape and adventure a book could give them. Now, flash forward, and see that they are reading almost every day and loving it. It wasn’t because aliens invaded their minds or someone slapped them in the face. It was because of Harry Potter and Twilight; two books that allowed them to simply enjoy reading for once. No preaching, no confusing subtexts, just pure indulgent fantasy. They were gateways to reading. Now, that they enjoy reading, they feel confident in challenging themselves (while still enjoying a guilty pleasure on the side.))

These gateway books are the kinds of books that you need to warn everyone that you are going to read. Tell your mother and your boss. (Heck! Take off a few days of work just so you can read all day!) Tell your friends because they won’t be seeing you around for a while and they’ll need some sort of an explanation as to why you’ve dropped off of the face of the planet and secluded yourself from all of society. Do this or else they’ll just assume that you have died and stop sending you things like birthday cards and Christmas presents (but your landlord won’t stop sending you bills).

Gateways books are also the kinds of books you push on your friends so they can get addicted too. It’s like peer pressure, but the kind that is good for you. Plus, who will you talk to about the book if your friends haven’t also read it? Soon, the book will spread like wildfire. (Someone might even make a movie based off of it! If someone doesn’t then you’ll have to protest or make it yourself.)

Finally, always look for more. When you have finished your gateway book, scour the bookstores for your next hit.

So, what was your gateway book (which book first got you addicted to reading)? Mine was Harry Potter.


  1. I completely understand this. My friends who never touched a single book were crazy for Harry Potter and Twilight. They are bigger fanatics than me. For me, Harry Potter and Twilight did not make a huge influence but Chronicles of Narnia just caught me off guard. It is the most brilliant book ever only that people do not read it. If they did, that book would be a hero among all others XD Thanks for this wonderful post ^_^

    Love <3

  2. Just hopped by to say Hi,
    I think books can also rekindle a passion lost too, I read constantly untill I became a mum and then my time just disappeared but when Harry Potter came out my curiosity got the better of me and after reading the first book I got hooked not just with HP but with reading again, now I'm a bit of a book worm!
    I am a new follower of your super blog, I would love it if you could follow me back.
    Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a fun filled new year.
    Helen x

  3. I honestly do not remember a single book that got me interested in reading. i have enjoyed reading ever since I could do so. I would have to say that The Giver by Lois Lowry has been one of my favorites that I have read.

  4. you bring up so many excellent points here. i myself (a 25 year old) reading more because of these very books. as silly as it might be i love these stories. the imagination and creativity behind them keeps me wanting more.

    it is amazing that young individuals are reading more because of these creations. i'm just happy that things are changing...it's wonderful!

    great post lovely lady ♥

  5. I think it's amazing, although like you said I don't particularly enjoy those books, I can see that they have an appeal, and in my opinion, anything that can get kids and teens and even adults reading again is a good thing. Whether they sparkle or not :)

    I think that it was the book I mentioned to you once before "The Scottish Chiefs" that hooked me. Not because it was such a fantastic book, although I seem to remember it being exactly that, but because it was almost 800 pages, huge, daunting and a required read for our class. Every single other student refused to read it, they picked it up, flipped through it, faked the book report and failed. Me, I had a hard time getting started. Yeah, that many pages is daunting for a 15 year old, but I did it, and I enjoyed it.

    I remember nights sitting in bed with my Mom reading it aloud. It took me weeks to finish but about 10 years ago, I actually went to the bookstore and tried to order it. It was outrageously expensive so I didn't, but I'd still love to. Now the only time I don't read is when I'm exhausted because once I start a book, any book really, I'm not happy til I finish it.

    For years I was reading a book a day, picking it up when I went to bed and finishing it at 3 and 4 in the morning.

    Sheesh, I said a lot. Shutting up now! :)

  6. Dawn...I've never read Chronicles of Narnia so shame on me, but I have seen every version of the movie out there. lol. I love the storylines, but I know I am missing tons by not picking up the books. Perhaps one day I will. I actually saw a beautiful edition the other day that had all the books in one volume. That would be a nice buy.

    Runtruffle...Welcome! I completely agree about books rekindling a passion for reading. That's very true. After Harry Potter ended, I quite reading for a while, thinking I would not find anything as magical or interesting, but then I picked up "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. I read the entire book in one night. Then, I got the second one and once again read the whole thing in one night. It took me two days to read the third, but mostly because I wanted to relish it a little more. :) They really sparked my interest again, especially for post-apocalyptic fiction!!! Anyway, that's for stopping by. I am looking forward to having you around for more discussions and I will certainly stop buy your blog and have a look.

    Penny Layne...It's wonderful that you are able to maintain such a relationship with books. I am on a good roll now, really the only thing that stops me from reading for pleasure is school, and only because I'm reading hundreds of pages a night for my literature classes. I actually read The Giver in 8th grade. It's one of the 2 books assigned books in middle school that I actually read the whole thing.

    Lindsay...Yes, definately tons of imagination and creativity. I think that's why I really enjoy them so much because anyone able to create new worlds or revamp (no pun intended) such an old myth while improving literacy rates in teens (the hardest groups of individuals) is a-ok in my book.

    Donna...Yes, you have mentioned that book to me before. Wow, 800 pages would have been extremely intimidating to me as a 15 year old. I guess I was reading harry potter at the time, but they were only about 400 pages when I was 15. But that really would have turned me off and I probably wouldn't have finished it, but good for you!! What a way to kickstart you're reading career.

    Oh, I know how you feel! I will read the worst book ever (most of the time. I'm working on this) just so that I can finish it. It really bugs me when I start something and not finish it. It's the control freak/obsessive compulsive side of me screaming out. Actually, this year, I have not completed the most books in my whole life because I am finally learning to set down those books I really am not interested in. It's quite the step on my part. :)

  7. ohhh...I thought I was the only one who tortured themselves thru a bad book...and a bad movie. It's like I'm a hopeless optimistic...'it has to get better', or, 'maybe the ending will change my opinion'.

    I love the 'gateway' analogy...so true and thank goodness...what a shame if a whole generation or two were to miss out on the sheer joy of escaping this reality...even for just a little while. Great article!

    Thanks for the kind comments...feeling normal now so I can get back to writing and reading the book you suggested...I'm on page 75 and really enjoying it. Susette

  8. I agree with you - it doesnt matter what people's opinions about the books are, I felt the same exact way when I saw what Harry Potter was doing to children all over the world! It was exhilarating to watch it all unfold! It was insanity - the lines, the crowds, the screaming fans! I was just so happy that something finally got kids into reading again!

    I grew up LOVING to read, often reading under my blanket with a flashlight after "lights out". My husband was the same way.

    My gateway book was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I already loved to read before then, but that book got me hooked on reading Judy Blume. I read every single one of her books in one summer. Ah, good times!

    Great post! :)

  9. Susette...I think that needs to be a discussion topic now. PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMS TO BAD BOOKS! We need to stop forcing ourselves through them and drop it and pick up something we love. I have a rule of thumb now. I will read 100 pages of any book and if I don't like it by then, I will drop it! I figure that's fair. I'm so happy you are feeling better and working on that story like a mad woman! Keep me updated for sure!

    Sofia...Another person who has been able to maintain such a wonderful relationship with books! You make my heart melt because I WOULDN'T read for the longest time. I wish I was one of those people who started reading out of the womb. It would ahve given me so much time to explore children's literature. I love that you know your gateway book to. That's going to be a new thing of mine "What was your gateway book?" It's like a therapy session, but for good habits!

  10. Meyer was turned down by 14 agents? Wooooooww...

    Goosebumps, I suppose, was my "gateway." In 1994, I read them constantly.

  11. We need to exchange e-mails so I can give you looong replies to your long comments :D Mine's jedimarri@gmail.com :) If it makes you feel better, my first "real" long term relationship wasn't until I was 24. I got married at 25. Never really dated myself. Have fun with all the weddings next summer! I've been in two weddings other than my own, and helped with a few others, the main advice I can give that you can pass onto your friends is to do whatever you can NOT to stress! Tell the brides that something WILL go wrong and not to freak out about it. Something goes wrong at every wedding just about and if your focused on everything being perfect you won't handle it well. If they focus on making things as good as they can and expect something to wrong, you'll be ok :)

    I should go actually read this post? I scrolled down so I wouldn't forget what I was going to say (roflol)

    I saw all the Harry Potter movies! And actually I'm rereading the series right now because I finally own all the books :D I'm on Order of the Phoenix right now. :D

    Totally hear ya on the Gateway books and the fame of these two series.Believe me I've heard just about every argument against them possible. My parents, for one, hate them both because they don't believe in magic and vampires are just wrong. You should have seen their great "joy" when my brother and I spent a week watching the Harry Potter movies recently...

    Personally, I think the Harry Potter books really only have one problem, they promote disobeying the rules and getting away with it. But that's not that big of a deal if your teaching your kids write from wrong. I like the Twilight books too, but I think she still has a lot to learn as a writer. have you read her other book? I think it shows improvement. Oh yeah, and vampires DON'T sparkle! Fairies sparkle.

    Oh right, you asked a question, my gateway books were the Chronicles of Narnia. My Mom actually read them out loud while she was pregnant with me, read them too my while I was a little girl, and I read the first one when I was in 1st grade! I need to reread those... My brother lost a few of them though :(

  12. It erased my comment! It was too long apparently :( I guess I'll just tell you my gateway books were the Chronicles of Narnia. My Mom read it outloud while she was pregnant with me. Read it to me while I was a little girl, and I read "The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe."

  13. Matt...Yeah, and I bet they are all kicking themselves several times in the head until they bleed for not picking up that sparkling diamond mine!!! I never read Goosebumps either, but I watched the shows/movie.

    Rose...That's some great advice.

    I've reread the Harry Potter books too (all but the first and fourth. I read the second one about four times. It was my favorite for the longest time.) I honestly can't wait to turn more kids onto them when they get old enough.

    You're the second person to mention Chronicles. I have to get on those.

    Sometimes it says that your comment is too long, but then it puts it up anyway. I know though. I right huge comments at times. Just too much to say!

  14. Oh! and my email is RedMatinee7007@aol.com :)

  15. The show was awful. I'm sorry that it was your only exposure to the series.

  16. I think I've loved reading since I learned how to read. But my gateway series was The Baby-Sitter's Club and before that, it's "spinoff," The Baby-Sitter's Little Sister. I used to read those all the time and looked for all the books in the series when I could: book stores, book fairs at my school, garage sales, etc. I ended up selling them at a fund-raising "garage" sale for my high school band. I had grown out of them at that point and had discovered The Princess Diaries so I think my mom was more sad about them being sold than I was :-P

  17. I am your new follower. You can follow me back at http://showmemama.com. Make sure you leave a comment so I know you visited

  18. Oh, and I'm half and half on the series you mentioned: even though I've read neither, I get the appeal of HP but do not get the appeal of Twilight. My high school classmate Amanda found a great quote about them: Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend. She doesn't know who said it, but I totally and completely agree with this.

  19. Matt...I completely agree with is being awful now, but at the time, since I was so young, I didn't mind it. Although I 100% loved "Are You Afraid of the Dark" more. That show was awesome!

    Sarah...I think I read some of the babysitter's club, but I was way more into the Boxcar Children and since they both had their popularity at the same time, I didn't read many of the Babysitter's Club. Once again though, I did see the movie. lol. HA! I just remembered that a friend of mine read Sweet Valley High! That was popular around that time too.

    And I just read that quote the other day. it was on a t-shirt or icon or something. I can see how people could see that, but there are several themes in Twilight that need not be overlooked...Sacrifice...Bella is willing to sacrifice herself to save her mother in the first book. Edward is willing to sacrifice himself in for Bella in the second book...Forbidden Love...Think Romeo and Juliet or Beauty and the Beast...Dualism...one of my favorite themes to explore in books and in life. it's this constant struggle between good and bad. Cullens and Bella (good), victoria and James (bad), drinking human blood (bad), trying to live a "vegetarian" life (good). The list goes on, but these are the 3 themes that really resonanted with me. They're just very classic and raw themes.

    Show me Mama...Thanks for following! I hope you can join in the discussion more as the blog progresses. I will definately come and check out your blop soon though.

  20. Hi Aubrie! Well! I've FINALLY aquired enough time to spend here, checking this place out!! I have only one thing to say, OK OK ! ... I lied You (of all people) know me well enough to know THAT'S damn near impossible for "warriorwitch!" Having only ONE I mean! LMBO

    The first, however is :"BRAVO" (applause!) A very well put together and intersting site my dear. With well tought out and beautifully written (of COURSE) topics. Very easy to navigate as well. That's important for folk like me; being still somewhat of a "dinosaur" with all things "internet" and computer related! Sheesh!

    I absolutely agree with what you've said about "gateway" books being a weapon, in a sadly depleted armoury against illiteracy. They reach and inspire adults even, who may be illiterate, to polish or aquire reading skills, because they have SEEN the movie and then WANT to read the books!

    My "gateway" books weren't made into movies because the genre I fell in love with was a "new-fangeld" style of writing called "Science Fiction" LOL (yes I'm THAT old and no wisecracks please! lmao)I cut my reading teeth on the "masters" if you will, of sci-fi. Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov and of course Grandmaster Robert Hienlin. Hopefully not forgotten pioneer writers of what the youth of today takes so much for granted. I had no movies to inspire me Or "hook" me into reading. Back then it was my "escape" from my everyday humdrum exsistance. And a form of rebellion agaisnt "authority" that ALL youngsters seem to find. lol It was considered "Junk" or "Trash", was confiscated by parents unilaterally whenever found in kids rooms and villified as "poisioning" young impressionable minds! Can you believe THAT?!ROTF

    Ah ... yes! Those WERE the days! I could wax "poetic" over it all Aubrie, but I'll spare you! You already are familiar with my vociferous self! Great Bolgspot Hun!! Please DO write on!

  21. Matt...I think I saw every episode of "Are You Afraid of the Dark." I wonder though, if I were to see it today if I would still enjoy it. I bet I could find it somewhere on the Internet.

    Warriorwitch...Yeah! I am so happy to have you here. It has been too long. I have read some Ray Bradbury. Especially some of his short stories. I have yet to dive into either of the other two though. I am taking a science fiction and fantasy class next semester though and the teacher is a stickler for the classics. He even edited a book on it that I am sure we will be using in the class. He was the first to introduce me to Farenheit 451 (as a Ray Bradbury) in my Freshman composition class, but we focused more on that movie than the book. I think we were running out of time or something. Anyway, I love having you here and I hope to here from you again soon!

  22. I like your metaphor about the gateway books. For me in the mid 60's it was Jules Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea...I read transfixed.

  23. Thank you. Now, those are some of the classics that I really have to get back into. I think I read the Children's versions of both those books when I was 10 or so. There used to be this awesome production company that created the Great Illustrated Classics which took really classic novels from the past 100+ years and made them suitable and easier for children. I ate those things for breakfast!!! I was able to familiarize myself with thses wonderful books and then read the real thing when I got older. Gosh! I had tons of those. I wonder where they are now?

  24. (I'm visiting from the blog hop at Frugality is Free.) I was amused to see my students fall so hard for Twilight. I only read the first book, but it so reminded me of the old fashioned romances I used to read years ago. If I had tried to convince them to read one, they never would have. But I guess Edward could act like a gentleman because it's expected in a vampire over a thousand years old! I loved that the kids were excited about books because of this exotic series.

    I didn't need gateway books. I've always loved them! But I do remember the first book I ever owned--Little Jeanne of France--given to me by my father when I was eight. That was my gateway to book buying! And I wanted the great ones that I so loved: Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and an author folks nowadays never heard of--Mary Stewart, who wrote a trilogy about Merlin and then a bunch of elegant romantic suspense stories . . . I love books!

  25. You're a teacher? What do you teach? Everyone asks me if I want to teach. I don't think I would mind, but I would want to teach college classes, I think. The students are just so much more interested. However, there is an attraction to trying to get kids interested. It may be fun.

    I'm happy you realize that if you had forced your students to read the books, they never would have, or at least not for a while. I was that way in school!

    Lol! I have that Mary Stewart trilogy! Both my mom and I are fanatics about period pieces, historical fiction, and anything that has to do with the Arthurian (or Robin Hood) legends! She read the series first and then made me wait a bit until I was slightly older because of some of the content, but we both loved the series!

  26. I'm gonna go against the herd and say that I read the "Chronicles of Narnia" books as a kid, but didn't like them much! Ditto with "Lord of the Rings" (enjoyed the movies though!).

    My gateway book? Hmmm... I pretty much always liked reading, but the books that really left an impression on me were by Gillian Rubenstein, an Australian author who's even from the same state as me. She wrote "Space Demons" and "Skymaze" about kids who became drawn into a computer game world. They are just brilliant books.

    As a teenager, John Marsden's "Tomorrow When the War Began" series was awesome too -- the movie just came out last year. Unputdownable. Loved those books.

  27. Becks...It's good to hear that you pretty much always liked reading. That's awesome. And it's cool if there are books out there that you didn't like. I am happy that you found books that you couldn't put down! I LOVE books like that and whenever I finish a series or book that was like that, I can't help but wonder what will be the next book to catch my interest so!

  28. Wonderful post! I never needed a gateway book because a love of reading seems to be genetic in our family. My daughter has definitely inherited it too!

    I stumbled your post via Stumble Tumble Tuesday. Mine is http://librarygirlreads.blogspot.com/2011/02/dragon-and-turtle-go-on-safari.html

  29. Great post and blog!!
    I’ve stumbled your post, would love it if you stumbled mine - http://oldermommystillyummy.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-is-heart-monthand-i-dont-mean.html

  30. Angela...That's great! I am so happy that both you and your daughter are reading. i think it is so important.

    Monica...Thank you. I will have to come by and stumble on both your posts!


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