I started learning Chinese at 3 or 4 at a Mandarin School that some family friends started. I still remember Mrs. Gin, my very first teacher. I remember writing ZhuYin characters (bo-po-mo-fo's) over and over again in those notebooks with little squares. The ZhuYin character, 'ge', sticks out in my mind. I really liked 'ge', probably because it was easy. It looks like two less-than signs '<<' =)
I learned English in school when I was 5. They put me in ESL (English as a Second Language) at first because I spoke no English at all. I remember this worried my parents quite a bit. I couldn't understand why or what I needed to do, but I knew they didn't like it. Within a few weeks, I was yabbling like the rest of the White Kids and transferred out of ESL.
Did you learn to read at school?
A combination of school, home, on the bus, in the car going somewhere, while we were grocery shopping, etc. I never did read Chinese on my own other than the stories from the Chinese textbooklets I learned from.
Do you remember learning how to read?
I remember learning the letters, putting them together into little words. But I could actually understand different and much bigger words before I learned them. I had no problems with compound words, suffixes and prefixes. I picked up on root words, derivatives and their impact on the denotation and connotation of words much quicker than my classmates.
This comes from Chinese. In Chinese, there's no spelling or putting together sounds to form words. You just have to memorize individual characters. You get hints from the radical and the harmonic, so that might be where I got the gist of English words before I learned them.
I also learned to spell by looking at whole words at a time. I always scored perfect on my spelling tests. Always. Anything less than 100% was a brain fart. For me, my spelling goals were never "How many words could I spell right on this test?", it was "How many tests in a row can I score perfect on?" =) I'm also slightly near sighted, but I don't need glasses. I'm not sure when it started. I never noticed it because I could always read the blackboard from mid-classroom, bus numbers and labels from a much further distance than my friends. I look at the shapes of whole words, like you would in Chinese.
Do you remember not being able to read - when all the words were strange code you didn't understand?
Only formal Chinese literature, like newspapers... which still elude me. And only with foreign languages.
When you were little did you read a lot?
Yes, quite a bit, but I read slow and if I find a passage particularly beautiful or well-written, I'll stay on it and read it over several times. I didn't have a high book count like some kids in my class.
I didn't have many friends and I was never a physically active child, so I'd just found a quiet spot to read at recess (1030h morning break) and lunch period.
And what did you read?
"Mostly sensible novels and suchlike" and "Only things written by $AUTHORS". I'd usually find one or two books I really liked, then branch out with that author's other books, or sometimes there was a recommendation on the book jacket and I'd look for one of those, get hooked on another author or genre, find others of the same =)
When did you start reading grown-up books - ones with no pictures!
At 7 or 8, I read smaller novellas with the occasional picture. By 10 or 11, I was almost exclusively reading Star Trek novels with the exception of the ones we had to read for Novel Studies. I think what got me started was a boy in my class, Vjekoslav Rasic (beautiful, smart, blue-eyed, blonde, Croatian/Yugoslavian boy, named after several famous General Vjekoslavs: Luburic, Petkovic, Servatzy). He read Star Trek almost exclusively as well. There were a few in the school library, but the motherlode was at the public library. =)
Did your parents or whoever keep an eye on what you read?
Not really. Sure, they made sure I wasn't reading something really bad, but they were more concerned about my Math and Science homework.
Classic kid-lit! Did you read?
I never thought I read as much as other folks, but now that I'm typing them all out and it's a bit of a huff to list just my favorites =)
I read some Dr. Seuss (ZOYCE. ZOYCE!!) in first grade. Mr. Men and Little Miss books! "The Story About Ping" (the very first Packet InterNet Groper manual =) and a whole litany of others. The Brothers Grimm fairy tales were also favorites... although, "The Dead Tsarina and the Seven Bogatyrs" might have been Alexander Pushkin's.
I had a subscription to Highlights for Children for a few years which I loved very much. I read each issue several times, I loved the stories and poems. The tone of it used to be calm, reasonable, mellow with stories that promoted tolerance across races, cultures, religions. There was something for everyone.
Roald Dahl's children books - "James and the Giant Peach" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" especially. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", I liked less though, not sure why. It might have been the Richard Egielski (illustrator) edition I saw. Somehow, I like Quentin Blake better. I recently found "Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes" and find it quite delightful... not sure if I'd recommend it for children though =)
E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" and Johanna Spyri's "Heidi" were favorites as well. I read "Heidi" several times and I was really excited to catch the movie on TV starring Shirley Temple. I could tell exactly what parts they cut out from the screenplay.
I found "Ellen Tebbits" and that opened up an entire collection of Beverly Cleary books. The appeal of Beverly Cleary to me was that the setting for most of her books was Oregon. I understood/identified with the more bleak Pacific North West climate and environment as contrasted with the perpetually sunny/warm California that Austin Allan came from. Austin was an amazingly resourceful little girl who was a good friend and taught Ellen a lot about life, how to deal with situations, like when "Otis Spofford" was bothering her. Ellen was fairly shielded and protected, not nearly as worldly wise as Austin.
That lead to "Henry Huggins" who lived close by to Ellen and Austin or he was Otis' friend or something, I don't remember now. There were a whole bunch of books centred around Henry and his dog, Ribsy. Henry was in the same grade and class as Beatrice Quimby, the older of the two Quimby sisters, "Beatrice and Ramona". So, that was another small spinoff collection of books I got into =)
I loved the Quimby's (Mom, Dad, Beezus, Ramona, not so much Picky-picky though). They were a struggling working class family. There was always too much month left at the end of their money. Much like my family back then. But their parents tried hard and loved the girls no matter how modest their lives were. Getting a brand new little Pink Pearl eraser was a big deal. I'd always liked Beatrice better than Ramona. Ramona was a bit of an idiot, but what made her likeable overall was that the stories were always from her point of view. It makes you realize how incredibly important point of view is in literature. When I was reading about Ramona from Beatrice's point of view, I'd shake my head in dismay at this little hellspawn and the things she did. But then, reading from Ramona's situation, you find out that she really is a good girl. Things ... just ... have a way of happening to her. Things she says don't come out right. Things she does somehow aren't as cool, don't work out the same way and don't elicit the same responses as "similar" things that others are "always doing".
Judy Blume was another favorite author from "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" and all the others. I didn't read "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" though. The title had the word "God" in it, so I stayed clear away. I may read this one day, now that I know it doesn't really have anything to do with religion.
I read Robert O'Brien's "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" which I enjoyed. "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" in 5th grade lead to a few other CS Lewis ones in the series. "The Hobbit" in 7th grade, but I didn't get into Fantasy until much later.
Once I got past the Kiddies Book stage, I would only read Star Trek novels. They were mostly TOS ones at the time. I don't remember a lot of them now. It's funny, I don't like TOS as much as the TNG series, but I like the TOS novels better than the TNG ones, on the whole. They dealt more with the people, exploring personality drama and interaction drama whereas the TNG novels are more action-thrillers.
Someone tried to pull me off the Star Trek wagon and introduced me to "Vampire of the Mists" by Christie Golden. It was interesting, but I'm not into Ravenloft as much as Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance. I remember wanting to check out an Al-Qadim, but I didn't get around to it.
I hated L. M. Alcott's "Little Women". I read the original, not the one adapted from the movie (I can't imagine how unbelievably asinine that one would be).
I was never introduced to "Anne of Green Gables", "Little House on the Prairie", or "Black Beauty", though I should look those up some time. I never quite got into "Tom Sawyer" either... I thought boys were stupid creatures from another planet, so I guess Tom and Huck were just not my type of kids.
Of course, now I read Harry Potter, technical manuals and occasionally catching up on some kiddie books that I missed long ago. =) I have Harry Potter Book 1 & 2 in Chinese and Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice" in Chinese, "傲慢與偏見" that I haven't started yet.