Monday, August 9, 2010

She Reads Guest Post: Contagious Passion for Reading

My first memories of the written word are like shadows, bouncing from the light of a kerosene lantern as my mother reads. Her voice is full of meaning, emotion, and I am spellbound. Three, maybe four years old, I listen to The Hobbit, and I want to be there, in the pages of that book. I want to be on that great adventure with Bilbo and I want to smell the pungent smoke of Gandalf’s pipe. And in many ways I am there, as the scenes unfold in my mind, painted by my mother’s love of words and the book she holds in her hands.
Chapter after chapter rolls from her tongue, dialogue smooth. She never trips over a word, never hesitates. Slowly, after hours of reading, her voice becomes dry, cracked. Broken. She coughs, and says she’ll continue tomorrow. We beg her to continue. My older brother heats the kettle on the pot belly stove, waiting for the whistle so he can make her a cup of tea: black with lime and honey, just the way she likes it. We cajole. She humors us and continues. Slowly my eyes grow heavy, my mind blurred between story and dream. I drift away, elf songs ringing in my mind. Somehow I have become part of this story and I will never be the same.
My mother loves science fiction and fantasy, so my reading teeth are cut on the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Patricia McKillip, George MacDonald, and Piers Anthony. I don’t understand much of what she reads at first, but I love the way words roll from her tongue. I love the inflection in her voice. I love that she loves what she’s reading.
And the idea dawns on me that I too, want to read. I want to do it on my own. I want to stand before her bookshelf and choose a thick tome with no pictures, and find a quiet place to curl up and discover mysteries in the written word.
“Mommy one day I’m going to read every book in this house,” I tell her.
And I do.
My passion for reading was caught, not taught.
Can you remember when you first fell in love with books?
And how do we pass this love of words on to our children and grandchildren?


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Beautifully written post, Ariel. You brought this childhood memory to life and helped us feel the warmth and the magic of it. No wonder you love books.

I too have an obsession with books that germinated in childhood. My mother was a school teacher and had firm ideas about not giving children a "headstart" before they began school, so my first classroom reading lesson was a revelation. I still remember the black marks on the white page and the sudden dawning understanding that they meant something - that they were the source of the story I loved to hear read aloud. It was a type of alchemy and I fell in love from that moment.

patti said...

Beautiful post! As the oldest child who lived in a boys' dormitory (my dad was the director) books became friends.

I LIVED with Beautiful Joe and with Nancy Drew, who allowed me to assist her.

Your post does radiate passion and the love YOU have for your books as well.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I wanted to read this post out loud.

Let's see, the Ramona books, The Neverending Story, Frog & Toad, Cinderella, but the one that I truly experienced for the first time...A Wrinkle in Time. I fell in love with books because of that story. It made me dream big.

I hope to inspire big dreams in my children when I read to them.

~ Wendy

Terri Tiffany said...

I love this story. My love of books began very young too-I think by my mother taking us to the local library where I found I could take out books and throw myself into their lives.

Ariel Allison Lawhon said...

Thanks for your kind words, ladies! Those are some of the best memories from a childhood that can only be described as "Little House on the Prairie meets the Hippie Movement."

I'm reading The Hobbit to my boys for the first time this summer. They don't really understand it, but they love it, and that's all I need at the moment. Passion for reading is caught, not taught.

Meg Moseley said...

What a wonderful post, Ariel. I introduced my own kids to all those authors. I don't remember that my parents did much reading aloud when I was a child, but the house was filled with books and I grew up with the knowledge that writing is a high calling and a privilege.

I still remember when the light came on for me and I realized that letters represent sounds that add up to words. I even remember the first word that came to life for me: R-E-D, red. I couldn't wait to explain it to my mom. She was thrilled for me.

My fifth-grade teacher read The Hobbit out loud to us, one chapter after lunch every day. It's one of my favorite school memories.

Heidi said...

What a beautiful post! It brought back so many memories.

I don't remember when I first learned to read, but my mom tells me I plunked down, cross-legged, on the couch in our living room and just started sounding out the words until I could read. That was when I was four. I've been falling in love with books ever since then, each time I opened a new one. And I hope my kids (when I have some in the future, Lord willing) catch that love too.

Lynn Dean said...

Beautiful post! I feel blessed to have so many reading memories--sitting in my grandmother's ample lap to hear nursery rhymes and stories about Tiny Toosie, enjoying a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods after lunch in 3rd grade, reading aloud with our children instead of watching TV (like my parents did with me).

Thanks for sharing!