When my saintly mother took it upon herself to homeschool her beloved firstborn child (a.k.a. me), she had but a single goal in mind: To make me love to read. If she managed to accomplish only that much, she figured, she could pretty much retire.
“On what possible premise could she base such an idea?!” some scandalized audience members may exclaim. Well, how about the verb itself? The numerous definitions of the word “read” are riddled with phrases that smack of education: “To examine and grasp the meaning of”, “to discern and interpret the nature or significance of through close examination or sensitive observation”, “to receive or comprehend”, “to study”, “to learn or get knowledge of from something written or printed”… Pattern established, and conclusion obvious: When you love to read, you cannot help but learn.
My mother understood this, because she is kind of a genius. And under said kind-of-genius’s tutelage, I learned to love to read.
People who love reading are addicts. You couldn’t keep me supplied. Thank goodness for regular trips to the public library, or who knows what would have become of me. It was a rare occasion when I came back from such a trip without at least one book, and far more likely that I’d have anywhere from five to a dozen. I was Roald Dahl’s Matilda, working my way through the kiddie corner until there was nothing left to tackle but the shelves dedicated to the big people. I was Disney’s Belle, looking around to see if there was anything new in since yesterday. No? That’s alright, I’ll borrow this one. That one? But you’ve read it twice! …A-a-and now we bring it back before this turns into a full “Beauty and the Beast” quote-fest.
I learned that library cards are not only free, they’re priceless.
People who love reading are not picky. I would read anything (more or less), anytime (except while sleeping), anywhere (no exaggeration, actually), because to do less made me sad. Books came with me in the car on errands. Books came with me inside the buildings where those errands were housed. (Come on, you know there’s always a wait time. And on the off-chance there isn’t, there’s always reading while walking.) Books came under the bed sheets with a book light, because the only thing more fun than reading is reading when your parents think you ought to be getting a healthy amount of rest. And when there weren’t books immediately at hand, there were magazines. And cereal boxes. And labels on cans of air freshener.
I learned that if you want something desperately enough, you’ll find creative ways to get it.
People who love reading are escapists. Those minutes snatched to read just one more page in between the demands of life were minutes well spent inRiverHeights, sleuthing with Nancy Drew. Or in the billiard room, with the candlestick, wondering whether Colonel Mustard or Professor Plum had done old Mr. Body in. (Yes indeed, that board game spawned a slapstick mini-mystery book series, and I ate it up.) Or in a magic attic with the girls’ club named for it. Or back in American history, meeting Addy, learning a lesson with Felicity, saving the day with Josefina. I went all kinds of places, experienced all kinds of adventures, looked over the shoulder and got in the heads of all kinds of characters. I had so much fun getting into stories through the door marked “Readers” that I wanted to see what they looked like when one stepped through the authors’ entrance. So I invented my own places, devised my own adventures, and resigned myself to having my own characters perpetually looking over my shoulder and taking up permanent residence inside my head.
I learned that I don’t only love to read: I love to write.
And someday, some book I’ve authored will be in competition with some can of air freshener for some person-who-loves-reading’s eager attention. Air freshener’s going down, baby.