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.
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