FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS…

My brother lives in another city about 1004km away from me. To the non-metric system users of the world, that means my brother lives so far away that I almost need a passport to visit him. At least, that’s how it feels.

But a few weeks ago the stars aligned and I booked a flight: our lockdown had been eased enough to liberate domestic flights; the rehabilitation of my broken ankle had progressed to the point where I could walk like a slight drunk and not a completely sloshed drunk; and my salary had been deposited into my account. Yayness.

Of course, the first order of business was to unload much of said salary on gifts for my brother’s two daughters. I bought a bunch of books and audio books accompanied by wonderful picture books for young kids. A coloring book here, some crayons there.

And off I flew. The visit was wonderful, although the coastal sun really shat down on my little in-land skin and I got roasted like that small piece of chicken that sticks to the pan when you put it back in the oven to properly bake up the chicken’s remaining sauce.

What was revealing though – and quite a bit disappointing – was to see the underwhelming effect my gifts had on my nieces. And I don’t mean to suggest they weren’t grateful and completely polite, because they were. But I learnt that they’re not passionate about reading. And, sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, people differ and everyone does not have to like the things I do…

But it got me thinking: how do folks get their kids to love reading? Is it just something some children are blessed with by birth, or is there some sacred parental practice that induced love of reading? I know plenty of adults whose parents read to them a lot when they were young, but are now happy to read nothing but road signs.

My love affair with reading was born of necessity. My mother would drop me and my brother off at my grandparents’ house over holidays, and we’d be stuck there for weeks on end. I hated it. But my great-grandmother’s spacey room had an old bookshelf fat with books, and a large day-bed that jealously drew the late afternoon sun’s rays. To avoid unfamiliar and intrusive aunts and uncles and visitors and strangers, I’d roll up on my great-gran’s day-bed and inhale those books. Soppy, often silly love stories that at first I didn’t want to put down out of fear that I’d have to speak to someone…but later I couldn’t live without knowing if Elena and her rude but oddly dignified boss got together…or if Susan and Bill overcame their tragedies to live happily ever after…

Lots of Danielle Steele stuff going on there…

And as time went by I realized that I was living other lives each time I read a book. Somehow my introverted ass was absorbed into the pages and I could solve crime, fall in love, preach to masses, stand up to people, work through traumas… I mean, just a few months ago some friends and I worked to kill a fugly clown that was killing a bunch of kids in a town called Derry…

People love reading for different reasons. I have a friend who reads self-help books like a machine, though I think she’s already as perfect as they come. Another friend reads because the practice has been drilled into her as a child. Another because he’s a giant nerd and reads every text in existence on ancient Romans. Some read for no other reason but a strange sense of elitism it brings them.

I’d have loved to see my nieces read and I’d have loved to read for them. But they have other loves and I respect that. At the very least I’m grateful that they don’t hide in sunny little corners, curled up with soppy books whenever their Aunty Agatha visits…

2 comments

  1. Hmm great question… I am an avid reader.. Like I love books.. I weirdly love physical books lol they make me so happy but I never grew up a reader, my parents never read to me nor did they instill the importance of literature to me at a young age… One day in high school I read one book that really affected me and from then I couldn’t stop… My 2yo daughter loves books.. For now it’s just turning the pages but she always has a book near her and I hope that sticks đŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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