Tell me a Story: Take Two
My appetite for words was insatiable (I’ll get more to this in a minute). I would beg Mom and Dad to read my favorite books to me until I was able to have a reading audience of my own. The same books that I adored to be read were the same ones that I would rehearse to anyone who would listen. I would read to my parents, I would read to my grandparents, and finally, I would read to my siblings. My favorite picture of Dad and me is one where we are lying on the floor and I am “reading” my father the comics. The picture aptly captures my love for reading—and sharing that love with others.
Other than my parents, I am the only “big” reader in the family. I’m not sure why some like to read and others don’t, but I loved sitting on the bed with my two little sisters on either side of me and reading to them the fascinating stories that captivated me. Later, when I was much older, I would try to read to my younger brother—15 years my junior—but he wasn’t interested in the books I liked: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan. He likes books like Captain Underpants and RL Stine’s Big Blueberry Barf-off. I’m just glad he’s reading—he’s only in the fifth grade. But this isn’t his autobiography, its mine! I have learned that you can’t force a square into a round hole. Well, duh. What I mean is that in order to install my love of reading in others (is force too strong a word?) I try to find the interests that others have and apply books to those interests. For example, my brother loves to read about barfing and farting—so I buy him books on those subjects. He’s a boy, what can I say? But when I go home, it is always fun to cuddle up on the couch with his books and take turns reading them to each other. When he sees my interest, his interest also increases. My father loves history and things out of the ordinary so we swap history books and Tom Robbins. My sister recently had a kidney transplant, so I loaned her My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult. She called me up a few weeks ago so excited that she had actually finished the book and wants me to recommend another for her. Being able to recommend books to others—to be a type of authority—is empowering, but what I also think it is empowering for others when they realize that books can be so much more than words on a page. A book can be conquered and enjoyed rather than simply endured. For some more than others it is an accomplishment to finish a book, but knowing that the outcome was positive and the person is thirsty for more is a wonderful feeling.
So how did I discover this secret world of books? As my sisters and I grew older, Mom would take us to the library during the summers to listen to the incredible stories that the librarians read. But more importantly, during these trips I was introduced to a wealth of books. I remember looking at the HUGE expanses of the Markham library and thinking about all the books I needed to read—and I couldn’t read them fast enough! I was waaaayyyyy beyond such childish stories at this point. I was ready for the “big kid books” like Roald Dahl and other various chapter books. I loved the places that my books took me. For me, reading was an escape from reality. I still feel this way today.
But, growing older means other responsibilities. Finding time to read “for fun” became more difficult, and as I began to “have to read” for school, my desire waned a little. I would occasionally pick up a book “for fun,” but instead of reading, I found another passion. Writing. This is where my love for words plays into the picture. I couldn’t get enough of the sounds, the meanings, how words could be played with. I began writing poetry. Now, I am not a poet by any means, but writing introduced me to voice. I could write things that others didn’t have to read; I could write things in my own words for myself. I was able to express myself in a way that I never could before. I was always thinking of words. Writing down words. Sometimes words consumed me instead of me consuming them. My very worn out, taped up, highlighted, checked, circled Oxford Dictionary can attest to this.
My love for words continued to grow, and I found myself searching for the beautiful words of others. In a way this brought me back to reading. I read Wuthering Heights for my senior paper in high school, and I couldn’t get enough of Emily Bronte’s words. She was able to create such passion and emotion by just using words. It still amazes me the power of words.
I often credit Emily Bronte for making me an English major (I can see my sisters’ eyes rolling even as I type this as it has become a sort of family joke). If I had read one more book for English in high school that I hated, I probably wouldn’t have discovered the vast world of beautiful words that I did. Don’t get me wrong, I probably would have always been a reader regardless, but without a certain love and passion, words are just words.
I wish I could sprinkle my love of words and reading on everyone, much like Tink’s fairy dust. But, I would be happy just spreading literacy to one person. I will always continue to look for books that my family members, husband (although he’s a tough cookie), friends, and acquaintances will fall in love with. I keep a journal of the books I read and after each one I write who I would recommend the book to. While my appetite is insatiable, I know there is a book out there to satisfy the hunger of everyone. And perhaps that book will be the one that starts a lifelong affair with reading. Am I idealistic? Perhaps, but don’t you dare try and take my words away from me. I’ll bite!