When my daughter was doing the college search several years ago, she was required to write short essays on topics of her choosing, many related to her current lifestyle and family life. My husband and I let her have freedom on this, knowing she was an excellent writer and had a stockpile of stories she could tell. We figured that one or two of them might mention us – after all, we were funding the school she’d eventually get into – and we were prepared to be slightly embarrassed or roll our eyes at how we were depicted from her 17 year old perspective.
To say we were floored when we read the first essay is a totally inadequate statement. We were blow away.
And in the best sense of the word.
The gist of the piece was on reading. She stated that she could never remember a time in her life where she wasn’t (a) surrounded by books, (b) reading books or being read to, and (c) when her parents didn’t have a book in their hands or handy. She wrote the first memories she could conjure were when I would read to her before bed, during the day, anytime she asked, really. She stated unequivocally that her love of reading, writing, the spoken and the written word fell directly from the exposure we afforded her. Since she was planning to major in English in college, this made cosmic sense to me.
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I read aloud to my daughter. I’m sure people thought I was strange when they would see me, sitting on a park bench, or in a waiting room reading aloud to seemingly no one. But the truth is, she was neonatally conditioned to be a lover of books.
It’s easy to explain where I got my love of reading. I was a latch-key kid from the time I was in second grade. My mother worked full time and she couldn’t afford an after school baby sitter. The safest place for me to go right from school was the local library. And I did. Everyday from second grade until middle school, I spent, on average, 2-3 hours, five days a week for over 7 years. In middle school, when I didn’t really need watching over anymore but could stay home alone after school by myself, I still went to the library most days. I finished every book in the kid’s section and then preceded onto the teen section was I was only 8. Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Jane Austin, and a slew of other characters and authors were my friends, companions, family. I learned most of what I know about social skills and social norms from reading books like “I’m Okay, You’re Okay,” and the like.
Books were everything to me.
And as I got older, their friendship and love grew, as I did, maturing, into new authors, new genres, new escapes.
When I first got married, my husband was not a reader-for-pleasure. He could usually be found, sitting in his chair, devouring a medical journal. I fixed that pretty quickly. I found a book that actually appealed to the both of us and every night, when we got into bed, one of us would read a chapter aloud to the other until the book was completed. I can’t for the life of me tell you what that book was about now – it was a very loooooong time ago – but I do remember the feeling I got every time we started a new chapter.
And hubby felt the same way.
When the book was done, my husband was hooked on pleasure reading. That started his reading journey and now he is never without a book when we travel, at home, or even on long car rides. We now go to local book sales and library fundraisers, searching for new authors and genres. The medical journals still occupy some of his reading time, but not to the extent they did in the beginning of our marriage.
We both passed this love onto our daughter. She is never without something to read, and she is a purist: she likes the actual book, not the Kindle version. She will read on an e-reader, but she, like my hubby, prefers the paper and page.
I am an equal opportunity reader: any form, and time, any day.
It’s no wonder I love to write, since I love to read. Creating my own characters, settings, plots and situations, falls seamlessly from this love of books.
The next time you have to give a child – or even an adult – a birthday gift, thank you gift, or even just a little something to tell them you were thinking of them, consider a book as the present. You’ll never know how just the simple gift of words/plot/characters can change that person’s life forever.
Reading: it’s a good thing.
*** horrible self plug: if you’ve got a few moments, check out Harlequin’s SOYOUTHINKYOUCANWRITE 2014 contest. Here’s the link to my entry. Drop by and give me some love. Thanks. http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2014/cooking-with-kandy/