The Joy of Reading

When I was an infant, I had a nanny for awhile. Both of my parents were working long hours, as were members of our extended family in the area. I was an only child with no elder sibling to look after me, so options were limited.

Obviously I don’t remember anything from this period of time. I have only the stories told by my mother. One lasting recollection she has of this period is Mrs. Davidson holding me in her lap and reading aloud to me. She would hold me gently in her arms and read a story, as many adults do for children, until I began to fall asleep in the early evening. I would nod off, and she would stop reading to me.

At which point, being a child, I would jerk awake, however briefly, and implore her with an authoritative finger–and pre-verbal grunt–to continue. She would read on, her soothing voice and infinite patience, and soon I would fall asleep again. The ritual repeated itself two or three times until I could no longer revive myself, and Mrs. Davidson’s work was done.

I doubt I understood anything she was reading to me.  I could barely speak, much less ascertain if Jill was running with Jack or kicking him and his dog Spot over the moon.

What I don’t doubt is this: as an adult, I now seek out books as a source of inspiration, information, and comfort. I have positive feelings and memories about books. I associate books with love, and I thank my mother regularly for this blessing.

Why? Because in everyone’s life there will be times of turmoil, turbulence, and trouble. What will you or your children turn to during these times? Alcohol? Drugs? Violence? Or Socrates, Plato, even Deepak Chopra? Yes, religion or spirituality may offer a strong but intangible refuge, but there’s nothing like reading about another human being who’s walked the same earth and written about their journey.

Reading about other people’s lives, their ups and downs, their philosophies, their history–all these can give us insight and perspective. We see that a champion has invariably failed, probably more than once. We see role models who have probably been where we are now, prior to their success. We see cities and countries who have risen from the ashes. We see progress, a light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly, we see that we are not alone: what we have felt as a child or as a teenager or as a single parent has been felt, in different ways at different times, by people throughout history. We are blessed to benefit from their experience, as many of them have chosen to write it down, if only we will but read.

So if you have children, read to them. Let them associate books with love. When they are older, they will seek out the wisdom and consolation that resides between the covers.

If you need understanding, encouragement, or strength, read a worthwhile book about someone or something that you can relate to. You will see that people have been where you are now. And not only have they survived, they have prospered.

Their story is your fuel. Use it.


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