The Love of Reading

17 Apr

On my first day of kindergarten, I woke up when it was still dark. I put on the dress my mother and I had picked out the night before, carefully packed my new Little Mermaid backpack with crayons, and crept into the living room.

My father had already left for work, and his worn green lounger was empty.  Beside it was a joke book that I loved reading to my brother.  I sat in my father’s green chair and read through the book until my mother woke up and found me.

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember loving anything.  I knew my letter before most kids were even talking.  Legend has it that my mother was in line at CVS, and I piped up from my stroller–“Mommy, what does P H A R M A C Y spell?”  She said all the people in line turned around with big eyes and looked at the child in the stroller.  She had no idea I even knew the alphabet.  Sesame Street had taught me well.

As I got older, we went to the library at least once a week.  I would check out fifteen to twenty books at a time, and I would have the first one finished by the time I went to bed that night.  My desk at school was filled with books, and I would fly through my work so that I could get back to reading.  Even when I had friends come over for play dates, I would give them the book I had picked out for them before retreating back in my corner.  I would get in trouble because I would read at the dinner table while trying to eat–my spoon hitting my chin because I was too absorbed in the world before me.

Pretty soon I was writing the stories I loved.  My imagination was huge, and I would cast the neighborhood kids in elaborate plots–giving them their characters and their motivations.  We would be mermaids/pirates/lions/orphans/mothers.

My love of reading carried into high school, but I was cool then, and I hid it well.  I read in my spare time, away from everyone.  I was the girl who’d finished reading all her textbooks in the first week of school…the first week of college classes.  I chose English as my major because I loved words, and I wanted to teach kids how to love words.  For four years, I got to read books and talk about books and critique books and dissect books and analyze books and write books.

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I bought a Kindle the other day.  I thought it’d be easier to take it on vacation rather than allot ten pounds in my suitcase to lug all my beach reads with me. 

Then I watched this short film, and my heart broke.

The thought of my children (or my children’s children’s children) never experiencing the thrill of imagining what Narnia/Stoneybrooke/Sweet Valley/Hogwarts could be like is disheartening.  I watched a toddler unlock his dad’s iPhone and find his favorite game in seconds, but then saw a child the same age swiping an actual magazine and looking confused when it didn’t work.  I take kids I babysit on imagination walks and point out the dinosaurs hiding in the bushes, and they look at me like I’m nuts. 

I wanted to write books because I love books.  I used to sit in the aisles of Borders/Barnes & Noble/Books a Million and look at the spot where my book would be one day.  And now the trend is e-publishing, and I’m thankful for any opportunity I get, but where does it eventually end?  Is there any comparison to holding it in your hands and smelling the pages right against the spine and arranging them on your bookshelf in the perfect order and holding your child in your lap and letting them turn the pages as you read?

The Kindle I bought sits on my nightstand, and I look at it and feel a shiver of fear.  Is the convenience/ingenuity/portability worth a world of children who can’t see the dinosaurs in the bushes? 

 

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