This I Believe

Terrie - Riverside, California
Entered on September 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the magic of reading. I have vivid memories of when, as a young girl, the “reading thing” clicked inside my head. It was a wondrous moment even if I think of it now. From there, I just took off and have been an avid reader ever since.

Growing up, if I didn’t have my nose in a book, I would read anything within reach. In a pinch, even one of my mom’s recipe books would do just fine. When I was very young and riding in our family car, I would (delightedly, I admit) drive my little sister crazy by reading each and every billboard we passed. After all, she had not yet learned to read as I had. Bound by a keen sense of familial duty, I was certainly not going to let her miss out on all the useful information to be gained by reading the roadside advertisements. How else was she to know that by using Coppertone suntan lotion one could “tan, not burn” or that Campbell’s soup was “M’m! M’m! Good!”? And, although I must confess that my reading habits were not always as refined as they might have been during my teenage years, I did manage to plow through many of the classics, some assigned by my teachers at school and some read for the pure pleasure of it. Books like The Grapes of Wrath, Fahrenheit 451, and A Tale of Two Cities, pierced my conscience and changed my perception of the world around me.

As an adult, the words I read still have a mesmerizing effect on me. The opening words to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men continue to transport me to the banks of the Salinas River and grip me with such an awareness of the beauty of language that it is almost painful. That words on a page can entertain, persuade, provoke, inform, give directions, or argue a point is truly remarkable. When written words invite laughter, impart beauty, offer hope, expose evil or change the hearts of men, it is nothing short of a miracle. To me, words are magic messengers, pregnant with potential for better or for worse. Words in a book can grant wisdom and render life. Or, they can provoke anger and fan the flames of misery. Written words flatter the mundane.

I recently read that the average American reads very little. I’m sure our fast-paced lives are partly to blame, but we simply must reverse that trend. Surely it is to our advantage to cultivate a love of reading for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren. Our stories are much too important to lose, as would be the delightful sensation of being carried away by the words on a page.