It's tempting to say, "Well, of course, I learned everything from reading," but that wouldn't really be true. I didn't learn to walk by reading, and I didn't learn to play kickball by reading, and, really, I didn't learn most of the stuff I did as a kid from reading. But there are some significant things I did learn from reading.
For example, I learned to read by reading. And I see some of you looking at me funny, now, but just give me a moment. See, there was this book that my mom used to read to me when I was a kid. It was some kind of counting book, and, no, I don't remember the name of it, but I did, at the time, memorize it. So, one day, I was sitting there on my bed, and I was looking at the book and reciting it as I turned the pages, and I had an epiphany: the words I was saying matched the words in the book. I remember very clearly working out that first sentence and matching the words and remembering them. I was three or, maybe, just turned four. But I figured out the reading thing by sitting down and doing it and was a pretty advanced reader by the time I started kindergarten.
Also, I learned to question things from reading. Granted, I did have some help from a couple of really excellent teachers with that, but "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson, had a huge influence on me in that regard. There was an almost tangible realization that those in authority over us could tell us to do bad things, and I learned that "why?" is a powerful word.
So, yeah, I could talk about all sorts of things like that and about facts and points of view and that I'm not the only one from planet Xenon (which is a story for another time), but, instead, I'll say the most significant thing I learned from reading is how to talk. And, yes, I could talk before I could read, so let me explain.
I am from the South. The deep South. I was born in Texas and grew up in Louisiana. People from the South speak in a particular way. I do not speak that way; I do not have a Southern accent. My family does. All my friends I grew up with do, but, somehow, I do not.
Of course, I didn't realize I lacked an accent until I was in college, but, hold on, we're not quite there, yet. When I was in high school, I was in a play; it was a melodrama, and I played a country sheriff. A country sheriff with an accent. The fact that I had to have a coach to help me speak my lines with a Southern accent should have been a clue to me that there was something going on, but I didn't clue in. I mean, no one had ever said anything to me about me talking differently, so I didn't notice that I did. This thing with the play was the first time anything about how I talked came up, but, I guess, everyone was just used to how I talked, so no one said, "Hey, why don't you have an accent?" so I didn't think about it.
One of my best friends in high school was born in Vietnam. He moved to Detroit when he was around seven and to Louisiana when he was in middle school. English being a second language for him, he had an accent. Not a Southern one. Yet. When we were in college, he and I took a road trip to visit his childhood friends in Detroit (and see some other parts of the US, but Detroit was the first stop). My friend was going to school in Texas (A&M) and had quickly picked up the distinctive Texas twang. Even I had noticed and had kidded him about it, because it was kind of amusing to hear his developing Texas accent over his Vietnamese accent. Anyway, we got up to Detroit and his friends were having a big party-ish thing for him, and they were making fun of his Texan thing when, kind of suddenly, they all turned on me (seriously, it was like six or seven of them at once) and said, "Where are you from?"
Theoretically, they knew where I was from. They knew my friend and I had gone to high school together and that we were both in college in Texas. They knew I was from the South. So I was like, "Texas..." And they said, "No, where did you grow up?" And I said, "Louisiana." And they said, "No, where were you born?" And I said, "Texas." And they said, "No, where did you live when you were a kid?" And I said, "Louisiana." And they did not believe me.
Basically, according to them, I had no accent. None of them could place where I was from, and I had to show them my driver's license for them to even believe I lived in the South, but I don't think any of them believed I grew up there. My friend had this Texas thing going after being there only about a year, but I had nothing. After we got back from the trip was the first time I noticed that the people I went to school with all had accents.
But I still didn't realize the extent to which I didn't have an accent. I mean, I still just sounded like me to me, and my family all sounded the same and all of that. It wasn't until my wife met my family that I discovered just how much I don't talk like them. My wife could barely understand them. Actually, she couldn't understand about 75% of what my brother said and kept having to ask me to translate. Needless to say, I found that quite amusing.
All of that to say that the only thing that set me apart when I was a kid, from everyone but, specifically, from my family (them being the biggest influence on me and all), was reading. Even when I was in elementary school and my highest priority was playing outside with my friends, I still spent hours every night reading. When I got to fifth grade and got transferred to another school for the gifted/talented program and had to ride the bus everyday, my reading increased and, again, in middle school where I tended to read myself through my classes. The only explanation I have for my lack of accent is that I read so much that I actually picked up my speech patterns from the books I read not from the people around me.
And that's what I learned from reading.