When I was a kid, I used to get so upset about the number of books that I wasn’t going to have time to read. I read as much and as fast as I could, and I never reread a book.
25 years later, and I do the same thing. I read all the time, carrying a book with me everywhere and listening to books in the car when I drive. I don’t reread books (which is a shame, I know, but there are so many books to get to I just can’t bear to go back). I’m making headway . . . okay, I’m not, but I like to pretend I am.
The truth is that I love books the way some people love cars or airplanes or shoes. They are the things that keep me sane, the paths that give me respite, and the ideas that inspire me.
When someone says they don’t like to read, my brow furrows involuntarily because, truly, I just don’t understand that. What is there not to love?
Years of teaching and talking to people about books has taught me how such a thing happens. It starts in childhood, young childhood, when the child’s whole world is her parents. In that home, no one reads. People cook, clean, watch TV, and play board games, but they don’t read. Not to themselves, not to each other, and not to the child. By the time the child gets to school, reading seems foreign, something that happens only in the classroom or for homework. It gets tainted by the element of force that is often part of education.
I am so blessed that I grew up in a house where books were (and are) the most precious things. Every room in my childhood home had books in it, even the bathroom. My parents took us to the library, and we spent more money on books than on anything else (especially when the Troll book order forms came to class – that was my favorite day!). By the time I was old enough to read on my own, I was having to be told not to read at the dinner table.
I wouldn’t be who I am without books. Books gave me my method for working through ideas and problems – language, and without them, I wouldn’t be a writer. In fact, it was reading – more than teachers or worksheets – that taught me how to write.
So here’s to my mom and dad, the quintessential readers, who taught my brother and I to treasure a good book more than most anything else in the world, except each other.
What value did books have in your childhood home? What value do they have in your home now?