I read while I brush my teeth. I read as I make dinner, and sometimes I walk around the house cradling a book in my hands, hoping not to trip. I read over breakfast and lunch when I can, and I used to read during the rest my day and into the night, but that proved to be counterproductive to living. My husband was forced to revoke my book store privileges, as he claims that our bills take priority, but I have regained the upper-hand—I’ll be working there this summer. In short, books consume me just as I consume books.
Starting when I was about three, my mother began reading me novels: the E.B. White books, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Bambi, The Jungle Books. My father, unfortunately, had little chance to set us on his knee and read, as we lived in different states, but that didn’t stop him. He read to us on tape nearly every week. James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Danny the Champion of the World. Being a Brit, he had a hankering for the delicously off-key creations of Roald Dahl.
Interestingly, I have little active memory of reading instruction in elementary school. Instead I remember trips to the town library and the bookcase in my bedroom: Nancy Drew, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. I re-read the Laura Ingles Wilder series, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and countless others. In sixth grade I tried in vain to hide my tears during reading class as I finished Where the Red Fern Grows. Throughout high school I scarfed down all of J.D. Saliger’s works and several Hermann Hesse novels, and by graduation, Breakwater Books and The Book Swap were my favorite stores in town.
Years later, at Spelman College I delved into a world of literature abounding with color and female intensity: Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, Lillian Helman. What more could I want?
Now, I am now entrusted with the literary health of my own little guy. Needless to say, we began reading to him after the blue line announcd his conception. By a year, he had heard the entire Harry Potter series, The Jungle Books, E.B. White’s children’s books, Alice in Wonderland, and even some John Steinbeck. Now, we make regular trips to the library and read children’s books incessantly. He can’t get enough of them. I can only hope this same passion carries into his future.
In the meantime, I will continue to read as I brush my teeth. I will continue to sneak lines while I should be making dinner. I will continue to pine those days-gone-by when I took ninety-minute baths emersed in the early feminism of Edith Wharton and keen wit of Donald Harrington. And I will spend my summer coveting the books that beckon while I work. In short, I will continue to devour books, just as they continue to devour me. This, I believe, is the only way to live.
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