This I Believe

cynthia - anchorage, Alaska
Entered on November 21, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in reading.

One rainy Saturday when I was five years old, my parents,

younger brother, and I went to visit some friends who had several

school-age children. The adults sat in the kitchen talking, while

the kids watched the black and white television in the living room.

When the TV suddenly went blank for a few seconds and a written

announcement popped up on the screen, I sat waiting for the

program to come back on. Sandy, one of the older kids, intoned,

“Please stand by,” and I realized that she had read the

phrase displayed on the TV screen. I was immediately suffused

with equal amounts of admiration and jealousy that she was able to

read it while I could not.

I believe in learning.

A year later, when I entered first grade, reading seemed

to be at the top of my teacher’s agenda. She had a stack

of flashcards designed to help little children learn to read.

I yearned to make a mistake in pronunciation because when that

happened, the kid who messed up got to hold that word’s flashcard for awhile, and for some odd reason, I just wanted to touch those

crisp little cards decorated with words. Being innately honest,

I never got to hold a flashcard because reading seemed as natural

to me as breathing. I can honestly say that I don’t remember learning

to read; one day I couldn’t. The next day I could. It was simple,

it made sense, and it was an epiphany. I LOVED READING. We took

a field trip to the small library in my hometown, and it was like going to heaven. Everything about the library was a cause for euphoria :

the enforced quiet, the martinet behind the counter, and the wonderful smell of books on shelves. If I had to compare it to an adult experience, it was the equivalent of an airline randomly sending me a certificate for a million frequent flyer miles.

I believe in flying.

My desire to read has never flagged; not once. The first real lie I

told my mother was that I had turned off my light when she sent me to

bed, when, in reality, I was under the covers with a flashlight, gulping down whichever book I had brought home that particular day. To m

mother’s credit, when she discovered my perfidy, she didn’t get mad.

She just smiled and I had the sense that maybe she envied me a bit.

When I heard on the radio yesterday that only 59% of Americans read even ONE book a year, I was horrified. I have traveled so far by reading books. As Isak Dinesen replied when asked if she had seen much of the world, ‘I have been a mental traveler.’ If I cannot physically visit every place I would choose,

then I have the power to visit it through the someone else’s words,

someone else’s life.

I believe that reading has brought the world to me.