I Am A Reader
“What shows do you watch?” the store clerk asks, ringing up my pile of consignment shop bargains.
“Shows, like on TV?” I hesitate, handing over my credit card. “Oh, I don’t really know,” I say. “I’m more of a reader.”
I am greeted by raised eyebrows, which I expect. It’s odd to prefer American literature to American Idol, biographies to reality shows. It’s odd to enjoy long, silent evenings curled on the couch, a cup of tea in one hand, a good book in the other. Call me a nerd, an introvert, or perhaps someone comfortable in her own skin. I can’t help but believe in the importance of reading.
Early on, I discovered the power of the written word. When I was a young girl, my mother shunned TV, calling it “nonsense”. Sure, I watched a few episodes of “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”, but that was at night, when Mom was away at her second-shift job. With the “noise box” (as Mom called it) turned off during the day, I found myself pedaling my banana seat bicycle to the elementary school library. Soon, I became hooked on the antics of Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” series and the kind acts of Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle. Too afraid to ask about the facts of life, I turned to author Judy Blume, who taught me about maturation through her book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Early on, books became my teachers and friends.
Today, I want the same for my own two daughters. I believe that literature can teach lessons I’m too afraid to impart. Who can more eloquently talk to my girls about death than author Katherine Paterson through her novel Bridge To Terabithia? Who can impart the impact of the Holocaust better than Lois Lowery in Number The Stars? As I read a Kit Kitteredge American Girl story to my first grader, we talk about the Great Depression and the importance of helping others. The lines of communication open, freeing me to be a better parent.
I believe in library cards, Scholastic book club orders, and used book sales. I believe in letting my fourth grader sleep with a flashlight by her bedside, reading until the wee hours of the night. I believe in saying yes to “Just one more chapter, Mama?” even though it is way past bedtime. I believe in my daughters’ bookshelves, sagging from the weight of Babysitters Club, Pony Pals, and Junie B. Jones collections. I believe in reading for pleasure in front of my girls, asking them to “Please be quiet so Mama can read.”
When someone asks, “What shows do you watch?” I hope that my girls will follow my lead.
“I am a reader,” they will say. “I don’t have much time for TV.”