I don’t know when it started, my lifelong obsession with the written word, or why it never faded.
When I was really little, probably about 2 or 3, my mom recorded herself reading stories to me, ringing a little bell so I would know when to turn the pages. I would plug in those 8-tracks, put on earphones that nearly covered my entire head, and sit for hours, enthralled by the world to be found in books. Then I started reading to myself, Frog and Toad, Little Bear, the Sweet Pickles gang. My favorite little Golden book was Nurse Nancy, and I doctored everything and everyone in sight.
Before long I was moving on to the “big kid” books, tearing through Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, the Bobbsie Twins, and Encyclopedia Brown, convinced that I was going to be the next great detective. Or I had my nose buried in Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, imagining life in a different time and place. When I was alone and without a book to read, I created a world that I had found in my books – whether I was solving crimes or harvesting crops or doctoring stuffed animals. When I played with other kids I even “played library”, checking out books to my siblings that I had neatly stacked (and alphabetized!) on the shelves in our attic!
Things haven’t changed all that much since then, I guess I am still “playing library”… My reading tastes have grown and changed over the years. For a while it seemed like I didn’t read anything other than engineering textbooks. There was another period in my life when it seemed like all I read were picture books. I no longer have patience for most of the books that I loved as a teenager. I still love a good mystery and enjoy historical fiction, but I also have found myself reading more non-fiction, trying out new authors and new genres. I never get tired of looking at amazing picture books and there are a plethora of wonderful books being written for middle-schoolers and teenagers. I could start reading now, never stop, and I would never finish reading everything on my list. And there are more wonderful words being written every day.
So why do I do it? Why am I a reader? I wish that I could say it was an intellectual or academic pursuit, that it makes me smarter, inspires me to greatness. It probably does make me smarter. And I believe that nothing is more inspirational than the written word. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because I love it, because it makes me happy – the way that the words sound in my head and on my tongue – the images and the ideas that they can convey in a way that nothing else can – it brings me joy.