It’s February, and we’re talking all things love. And what’s not to love about books? Even the bad ones! Yes, even the bad ones hold a special place in my memory. So when does our love for books start? Some may say it begins with childhood memories of sitting on a lap looking at picture books. Others say it happens the moment you see yourself in a character. My love of books was always there, but the love of reading didn’t happen until much later in life.
Some of my earliest memories of books and reading were with my grandmother. She was a voracious reader. I remember the days when she would take me to our small-town public library. She stayed in the adult section on the main level while I ran downstairs to the children section. But I didn’t appreciate the library or the books until I checked out my first Judy Blume book (on the main level). I remember reading those Judy Blume books in my grandmother’s “den” or what we now call a TV room. The sun would light up her brown and gold striped couch while I was curled up and tangled in the world of puberty with Margaret Simon, or the bully, Jill Brenner, or Fudge Hatcher, the annoying little brother. Though I loved these books and so many more, I struggled with reading.
I was and still am a slow reader. I struggled in school with reading, writing, math, and science. I was not a great student. But, despite my grandmother’s efforts at having a private library containing the entire series of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and volumes of Nat Geo magazines to encourage us to read, my love for books didn’t happen until college. There, I found myself getting lost in the stacks at WVU’s Wise Library (cue image of Belle in the Beast’s library). Meanwhile, my grandmother was still going to the library as often as she could; however, she was also losing her eyesight to macular degeneration.
As reading became a part of daily life for me, it became a struggle for my grandmother. It was heartbreaking knowing she would never again see words on the page. My grandmother is gone, but when I look at my mom and my aunts, I realize they too are voracious readers, like their mother. It’s a beautiful cycle in our family. Though my son struggles with reading for pleasure, I still hold out hope that he will come to love it one day as I did. I need to remain patient, make sure books are available to him at all times, and model like my grandmother did – have a book within reach all over the house.
As a teacher, I explain to reluctant readers that it’s a love for getting lost in the richness of words and being emotionally invested in characters. There are times when a book disappoints us, yet it stills holds a place in our memory. Characters break our hearts. At times we laugh out loud or are wrought with fear. We become detectives. We become the young woman in a war-torn world searching for a lost child or her lover. We can be heroes. And that’s just with fiction! There is so much to love about books, and I’m sure you are here reading this because you love books.
If you want to be a writer, you must first be a reader. There is no way around it. As I continue on this journey of writing, I am still absorbing books every week. And as I create characters and worlds, I can only hope a young reader will find their love for books in my words.
So I want to know, when did you genuinely fall in love with books?
Was it the first time you saw yourself in a book? Was it the first time a book made you cry? Was it a book that you stayed up late to read? Was it a book that left your heart and mind so occupied it felt like a hangover?
I’d love to hear where you are on your writing journey. If there is a way for me to support you, please let me know!