Books are a great gift, but reading to someone is a priceless gift. It is the best way to show your love because with it comes our time and our undivided attention. By reading to someone, we say, “You are important to me and you are my number one priority”.
I am lying in my small bed in agony. Mustard packs are plastered all over my back and chest – they are supposed to cure my chest congestion, but as far as I’m concerned they are about to set me on fire. They burn, they are itchy, and they smell weird. I am compelled to scratch them off under my pyjamas but my mother stops me. “Keep still for fifteen minutes and I will read to you meanwhile”. This works like magic and I gather enough self-control to stop fidgeting.
Listening to my mother reading stories is probably the earliest memory I have – and no wonder. Reading a story to me was her ultimate treat. When promised the next chapter, I would willingly go to bed at nine sharp, although I have been a night owl since I can remember myself. I loved long stories that you could listen to continuously, night after night, so “The Wizard of Oz” was one of my favorites. Another reason to love long books was that you could always plead for one page more – it wasn’t like asking for another entire story, right?
I am sitting at a dining table with an ABC in front of me. I wade through the page, word by word. I rely heavily on guesswork because this way I might finish the page earlier and will be free to play. Or to help mother in the kitchen – anything but this misery. “The ape is red” – “I don’t think it says ‘ape’, dear. Try again.” – “The alep is red. What’s an ‘alep’?” – “There’s no such word. Try again, slowly”. – “The apple is red!” Geesh! What a pearl of wisdom for all my troubles. “Will you read me a story now?”
Reading didn’t come easily. It was a struggle – and not despite, but mostly because we were supposed to practice on special texts of disjointed statements, short words, big letters. It wasn’t interesting at all. No matter how colorful the pictures, those practice books weren’t fun because they weren’t stories. Learning to read almost killed the joy of reading. I feel so lucky that my mother didn’t stop reading to me during that time – that she wasn’t content with just picking a suitable book with big print and colorful pictures and hoping that it would be enticing enough to make me want to read it. She continued nurturing my love of reading.
I have to finish my broccoli soup. I hate it. I eat only when mother reads to me and stop as soon as she lays the book down to stir the stew on the cooker. When she takes too long, I start banging my spoon on the table: “Read! Read! Read!” (I know, I WAS a spoiled brat). “You can read it yourself now, can’t you? I am busy cooking”. Well, fair enough. I read slowly but I already can do silent reading. I put “The Hobbit” open on the biscuit tin to see better and start reading to myself. I don’t even notice how my plate becomes empty.
And that’s how I adopted my major bad habit I have no intension of quitting. Since that day, I had to read something while I ate. In fact, I just had to read something any minute I could. When I finished one book, I asked my mom for another. When I needed something short and funny she suggested by O. Henry’s short stories. When I was craving something long and epic – there was “Lord of the Rings” She browsed musingly through the bookcase before picking something and it felt mind-boggling how she knew exactly what each of the books was about and what it was like.
I am hiding under the blankets with a flashlight in one hand and a fresh copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire in another. I was retorted sharply for the light in my bedroom after midnight, so I don’t take any chances. It’s school night and it’s my senior high. I know that I am supposed to be smarter than this and be able to make adult decisions, but Just. One. More. Page.
Books became my obsession. I took them everywhere I went. I was a straight-A student, but if anything could make me neglect my homework – it was a particularly engrossing book. At one point, my parents threatened me to take the book away until I fix that C on my Math test. They said it was a slippery slope and if I wouldn’t be careful I’d become one of those so-and-so students who pay for essay faster that I could say “library”. Yet as a rule, they supported this obsession and showered me with books. It was the best present for every holiday.
I am videocalling my boyfriend with whom I struggle to keep long-distance relationship after leaving for college. He is tired after work and time zones do not match perfectly. All I can talk about is how much I miss him and how miserable I feel away from him and from home, on and on, tearfully. He isn’t very verbal about feelings at best of times. I suspect he is avoiding my calls because they only upset us both. “I’ve stumbled upon this cute Irish folk tale about married couple’s argument, it’s hilarious. Want me to read it to you?” I suggest. “Yes, please!” He is genuinely enthusiastic.
Reading saved us. I had to do the taking, and nothing I could talk about helped. So I read instead. We’ve read through my favorite folk tales, his favorite folk tales, all Enid Blyton I could manage and all Conan Doyle I could find. We relived our childhoods and shared them through books, bonding stronger with every page.
I tiptoe down the corridor to peep inside the nursery. I hear my husband’s voice lowered almost to a whisper: “…and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind went whispering so constantly among them.” Then silence for a few seconds. “I am not yet sleeping!” our daughter protests. “That’s the end of the chapter, sweetie.” – “One more page, please!” My heart melts.
Books are a great gift, but reading to someone is a priceless gift. It is the best way to show your love because with it comes our time and our undivided attention. By reading to someone, we say, “You are important to me and you are my number one priority”. It brings people close together more than anything, because you share this experience as equals – neither teaching your kids how to cook, nor playing games with them provides this particular parity.
I hope our daughter will not only grow up to be just as avid a reader as her mom always was but will pay it forward as much as she can.