When I was a small child, I envied readers. They could decipher those cryptic symbols which I barely knew as the alphabet. An assembly of those symbols formed words. That was all I knew. I also knew (or thought I knew) that “l-m-n-o-p” was one letter.
I was also jealous of the wondrous word. It captivated attention in a way that I could not. My protests couldn’t easily deter the reader’s eyes from scanning the page. It was then that I began to associate reading with power. So, my wonder and awe gave way to that favorite pastime of children—the game of pretend. I created narratives solely from the illustrations of picture books. Or, when a picture book had been read to me, I committed myself to memorizing the story. When memorized, I could pretend to read the story by myself. Inevitably, no memorization was perfect and I recreated a story with every attempt. This is the magic of reading.
Finally, I was initiated into the marvelous realm of literacy. I read voraciously, without discrimination towards any particular genre. For all of the reasons I found reading so appealing, none were so prominent as this reason—my curiosity was insatiable, and I had not yet lost that ability to be awestruck by the delightful morbidity of Roald Dahl’s stories or Laura Ingall Wilder’s eloquent and simple descriptions of beautiful landscape.
I sincerely believe in the importance of maintaining a childlike sense of wonder and awe. I don’t know when (or even if) it left me, but I try to recreate it; mostly through the act of reading, though I seldom find a novel that resonates in my mind as clearly as those books from my childhood. Nevertheless, when I do find those rare novels which evoke my wonder and present me with that anxious desire, to devour, yet savor, I’m reminded of even more impulses of my childhood self: to follow pigeons in a city square, to know where all of the bees hide during the winter, or to throw a rock in a pond simply to delight in the sound it makes.
During the transition from child to adult, we lose our innocence, but all is not lost. We do not have to lose our sense of curiosity and awe over the beautiful and simplistic facets of life. I believe it is important to maintain these qualities, for they help us cope with our own circumstances. It is also our way of helping each other cope. I genuinely believe that the greatest compliment that can be bestowed upon another person is to make eye contact, tilt the head, soften the eyes, and look upon them with benevolent acknowledgement and curiosity, to ask, “What’s your name?” The curiosity and awe of children has a remarkable way of making people feel important. I believe adults should make every effort to retain that ability—for their own happiness, and for others.
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