A few weeks ago, as a girlfriend and I were catching up, I mentioned my despair over finishing my last novel. I explained how I was going through what I term, “book withdrawal” - the gloomy phase that happens after completing an incredible book. The period where you don’t know what to read next and fear that nothing will compare to the blissful weeks you spent buried in your last novel. To my surprise she responded, “I’m not actually much of a reader. Maybe I’m missing out.”
Now, reading isn’t for everyone, I understand that. But since then, I’ve thought about that conversation a lot. Not only can I not imagine a life without reading book after glorious book, but it made me pause and realize what a wonderful journey I’ve had with books over my lifetime.
For me, it all started with Archie comics. It was the first series that I couldn’t get enough of. I remember going on long family road trips and sitting in the back with a stack of comics, content. My dad used to buy them by the box at garage sales to help satisfy my appetite. To this day, I’ve always been able to relate to Art Spiegelman’s quote, “Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.”
Next it was The Babysitters Club and R.L.Stein’s Goosebumps and then the wonderful world of Roald Dahl. It was clear at a young age that I had an eagerness to read. The seed had been planted.
I’ll admit, my teenage years took me down a different reading journey. Novels turned into teen magazines and reading became research to discover the latest fashions, heart throbs and answers to my burning questions: “I0 Ways to Know If Your Crush is into You”.
By the time I hit college, reading was back in full force. Of course, I didn’t get to choose what I read but I certainly read. A lot. I don’t think I read one novel in all my time in college. Between maintaining a GPA and a social life, it really didn’t fit in. However, I remember realizing shortly after graduating that I had freedom. Not only to do what I wanted, but also to read. To choose a book that I wanted and to read it on my time.
Fortunately, I still get to bask in this freedom. It is not unusual for me to have two or three titles on the go at one time because even though I like to read daily, what I’m in the mood for reading varies. My ideal companion is paperback fiction accompanied by a glass of red wine and a bubble bath. Although I’ve also been known to read a gardening book front to back as my nightly indulgence.
These thoughts have also led me to wonder how much my book resume has led me to the people I surround myself with. I may have only met someone a few times but as soon as I hear that we’ve both swooned over the same novels, I suddenly realize they are part of my tribe. In fact, some of these people have even advanced, in my mind, as my Book Soul Mates. Those friends or beloved bookstore attendants that have the same taste in books as me. Those people that I turn to, when I am going through withdrawal, to lead me in the right direction. Dare I say, to get my next fix.
Now, as a mother, I’ve come full circle with reading. I have read to my children nearly every day of their lives and am now supporting them to learn to read themselves. This task has reminded me of the many challenges that come with reading. I’m humbled to remember a time when words on paper were foreign. The sheer frustration that comes from trying to bring meaning to the unknown symbols of our extremely challenging language. But more so, I’m reminded of the real challenge I face – how to maintain, in my children, a deep love of reading amongst the struggles.
No matter the pace, there is no question that my children will learn to read. But what I strive for is something much greater, much more important. I want my children to want to read. I want them to maintain a hunger for curiosity; an excitement to go anywhere and discover anything. A tool to access knowledge for the rest of their life…and enjoy it. I want them to develop the same addiction I have. In essence, I just don’t want them missing out!
Feel free to contact your local CBAL community literacy coordinator for tips on how to make reading at home with your children fun.
Community Literacy Coordinator Slocan Valley
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy