Which Books Turned You Into A Reader? 3 Authors Shared Their Answers, In Honor Of The National Book Foundation's 'Raising Readers' Program

Here's some good news, readers: The National Book Foundation, in partnership with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), has launched a Raising Readers program to empower adults to raise children who love to read. The foundation, which hosts the National Book Awards every year, asked three authors — Cristina Alger Wang (The Darlings), Angela Flournoy (The Turner House), and Lisa Ko (The Leavers) — to say a little bit about the people, books, and events that turned them into lifelong readers, and you can read their answers exclusively on Bustle below!

One of the most striking things about Wang, Flournoy, and Ko's answers is that there is no single common thread that unites them all. These authors became voracious readers due to a variety of factors, including LeVar Burton's Reading Rainbow and classic children's books. On a similar note, the Raising Readers program doesn't take a one-size-fits-all approach to making kids value books. Publisher's Weekly reports that the program "will provide paid professional development training for DYCD provider staff, who will work with young people through after-school and summer programs, and will pair staff with NBF teaching artists to collaboratively run reading circle series for parents at local DYCD sites across the city." Raising Readers will also make use of "book giveaways, lectures from high-profile authors, and book shopping opportunities for participants," in order to draw attention to the excellent initiative.

See what Wang, Flournoy, and Ko's had to say about their own relationship to reading below:

Cristina Alger Wang, author of 'The Darlings'

Photo courtesy of Deborah Feingold

The Darlings by Cristina Alger, $14, Amazon

What were some of the books that made you into a reader, and what did those books mean to you?

"My mom always read to me, from the time I was very little. The first books I remember really loving were Corduroy and The Velveteen Rabbit. I was a quiet, shy only child and I spent a lot of time playing alone. The idea that stuffed animals could come alive and become companions delighted me. Later on, the Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time absorbed me completely. It was so exciting to just open a book and be transported to another world."

Was there someone in your life who encouraged you to read at a young age? Who were some of your reading models?

"My parents were both voracious readers. It was just a part of their daily life. My father worked really long hours, but he always started and ended the day with reading. By the time I woke up, he’d already read the paper. In the evening he read biographies and thrillers. As I got older we’d read together on weekends. My parents always made reading seem like a joy instead of a chore. I saw how much they loved to read so I wanted to, too."

With the Raising Readers program, how do you hope to share a love of reading with parents? What's been the most exciting part of sitting down to talk to those parents?

"I know how hard it is to read with small kids at home. You’re tired and have a million things competing for your attention. But I truly believe there is no better way to unwind than with a really good book. We spend so much of our day in front of screens. Reading is such a nice antidote to that. I read before bed, every night. Even if it’s only for five minutes, it relaxes me."

Angela Flournoy, author of 'The Turner House'

Photo courtesy of John Midgley

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, $13, Amazon

What were some of the books that made you into a reader, and what did those books mean to you?

"I've always been a reader, and since a young age I've read anything I could. This ranged from The Baby-sitters Club series to the books my older sister was reading for school, like Upton Sinclair's gritty muckraking expose of the meatpacking industry, The Jungle, which I read at age 12. Books kept my imagination occupied when I wasn't feeling challenged by schoolwork, and they gave me a sense of the world outside of my own Southern California community."

Was there someone in your life who encouraged you to read at a young age? Who were some of your reading models?

"My mother and father both encouraged my reading. They gave me money for the Scholastic Book Fair, and shuttled me back and forth from the library. I was a faithful watcher of LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow, and he certainly was a role model for an unabashedly nerdy reading life early on."

With the Raising Readers program, how do you hope to share a love of reading with parents? What's been the most exciting part of sitting down to talk to those parents?

"I've been fortunate to meet with African American parents in Brooklyn, where I live. One of the schools I visited is a stone's throw from my apartment; it really did feel like getting together with my neighbors. Talking about my novel The Turner House with them has been wonderful because the book has many intersections with their own lives: aging parents, adult siblings, the challenge to secure good, affordable housing. Discussing their impressions of the book has been a springboard into valuable conversations that they can continue afterward. So many of these parents have expressed a love for reading but a lack of time to set aside for themselves. Raising Readers not only provides a space for them to meet and talk, the programs also gives them free copies of books that matter to their own lives."

Lisa Ko, author of 'The Leavers'

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ko

The Leavers by Lisa Ko, $14, Amazon

What were some of the books that made you into a reader, and what did those books mean to you?

"I read everything in my town library, but some of the first books I owned were handed down to me by a family friend whose daughters were a few years older than me and had outgrown them. They were children’s books published in the 1960s and '70s, and I was reading them in the 1980s, so they also felt like historical relics, cultural puzzles of childhood and girlhood in particular."

Was there someone in your life who encouraged you to read at a young age? Who were some of your reading models?

"My parents encouraged me to read. My mom took me to the library every week so I could check out the maximum amount of books you could borrow at once."

With the Raising Readers program, how do you hope to share a love of reading with parents? What's been the most exciting part of sitting down to talk to those parents?

"I love talking to people about stories: not only in book form, but the stories that we tell and hear, and that we see in TV and movies. And it’s been a gift to talk to parents in the program. I visited with a group of women who were immigrants from Fuzhou, where one of the main characters in my novel is from, and it was so meaningful to hear how they related to the book."