Why I Read

There are two groups of people: bibliophiles and those that read a book a year if they’re lucky.  There are many levels of bookworms, from the collector to the packrat to the obsessive, and I’m not sure where I fall.  I do, however, read every day.  Sometimes I finish a book in one sitting, sometimes I just get a few pages in.  I usually have several books going at a time–one for the home ‘library’, one for the car, and one for when I’m tired of TV.  But I read.  I read a lot.

Awhile ago I was asked to provide, in writing, why I was one of the ones that read instead of one of the ones that chose not to lose themselves in the written word.  Here is my response (and I’ve not got the faintest idea where the last bit of it came from!):

Why I read

I have been reading or been read to ever since I was a young child. As a toddler, my aunt supplied me with a steady stream of Little Golden Books. My mother swears that I was the only child she had ever met who thought that a babysitter was the greatest thing on earth. You see, my parents got tired of the ten-books-a-day that I used to pester them to read to me. A babysitter was fresh meat!  At that age, I loved any and all stores, and was especially partial to fairy tales.

While I know my mother loved me, I am certain she was at times exasperated with my voracious appetite for the written word. According to the family tales, when I was 3½ I was famous for sitting at the breakfast table speaking in (what my mother thought) was the late onset of baby talk. I was in fact reading the newspaper, albeit phonetically. In fact, when I started kindergarten, they found that my reading skills were on a fourth grade level, so I was allowed to go to first grade. (As I got older this really bummed me out-I mean, come on!  You get to take naps and finger-paint in kindergarten. In first grade you had to WORK!)

When I was in elementary school, I read everything I could find. I was insatiable. I would sneak batteries from the utility room so that I could hide under the covers at night and read until the wee hours of morning. I would convince my brother that he was afraid of the dark so that we could keep the hall light on so that I could read in bed at night. And I always had acute hearing at night–the stairs in our house didn’t creak, but the carpet made a funny noise so I could quickly extinguish my flashlight and pretend to be asleep before my mom came down the hall to check on us.

At that time, I read the entire published library of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Bobbsey Twins in my younger years, and then progressed to the Junior Super-Sleuth also known as Encyclopedia Brown, the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, and ANYTHING by Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume. I am sure that there were hundreds upon hundreds of others, but those are the ones that, nearly 20 years later, I can still readily recall.

When I was in middle school, my reasons for reading changed. I still loved a good fairy tale, but I went on to read stories about people in history, works of literature, non-fiction, and (when my teacher required it but certainly at no other time) poetry. I read for school, I read for my brother. I read for the children that used to stay at our house every afternoon. But most of all I read to escape.

My middle school and high school years were not easy times for our family, and for me reading was a way to escape to another place. I was able to be the perfect child, the forgotten child, the winsome heroine, the long-lost love. I could save the world, discover modern medicine, go on grand pirate adventures, and conquer the Wild West. I could live on a spaceship, underwater, on an Indian reservation, or in a Wrinkle in Time. Most of all, I didn’t have to live at home. Whenever things were too stressful, for hours or even minutes at a time, I could live anywhere else other than my home. I could have any family in the world. I could have any job in the world. I could have all the money in the world. I could be anywhere, do anything, and be anybody other than what I was.

As I got older, the reasons for escaping changed, but the desire to get away didn’t. So I still read–anything and everything. I read to find out current events, or to find out about the diseases that have afflicted my mother and grandfather. I read Biography or People to learn about people. I read to learn about the state and town where my brother lives, and I read to further my own imagination and desires.  I read for health, well-being, and peace of mind.  I read anything in print: newspapers, books, magazines, more books, internet news releases,  human interest stories, more books, flyers, books….

And today, I even found myself reading the content listings and recipe suggestions on the back of a box of crackers.

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