When did you realize you wanted to major in English? That is a question that has perplexed me since I enrolled at Oakland University. When I applied to college English was the obvious choice for me, I felt like it was the only option for me. This was not just a question about my major but also a question of where did that part of me—the English part—come from. Three years later and I am almost done with my BA in English and I finally realized what defining moment—or person—pushed me on this path.
I was 12 when I became a book worm and it all started with a teacher. My fifth grade teacher had a deep love for books. He made a point of reading to the class for at least an hour a day, entertaining us with different voices for each character and choosing books that everyone could fall in love like Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He also had a club for students who read a million words and the prize was a treat from Dairy Queen. Promising to buy ice cream is the best motivation for 12 year olds and it sparked my determination to join that club.
A quick peruse of the library led me to a series of large books known as Harry Potter which changed my life—it may seem corny but it is true. (If you don’t believe me please enjoy my fifth grade photo where I posed with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) With Rowling in my hands I quickly racked up a million words (tallied by Reading Counts quizzes) and I felt both a sense of pride and urgency to return to the library as soon as possible for more books. Little did I know that although my teacher thought he was encouraging me to read he had cursed me to the life of a bibliophile. Not only did I continue to read every book I could get my hands on but I ended up creating another club: the two million word club. This reading club morphed from a silly contest to win ice cream to a hobby that I fell in love with. After that year I was no longer “Dee” I was “Dee, the book worm.”
It is hard as an English major to explain why you are studying literature, writing, etc. while other students are pursuing degrees in medicine with the dream of saving lives or becoming engineers to develop alternative energy sources. But me, I am just a person who fell in love with reading at a young age. The ability to break down a story and find a deeper meaning in the writer’s craft is what I love about studying literature. That is why having that moment where I realized that I wanted to be an English major is so important. That moment is a constant reminder of why I am doing what I am doing and it continues to inspire me. So when people ask me about my major I always go back to that year and the teacher who lead me in the right direction.
– Dee Donakowski