There has never been a single moment in my life that couldn’t somehow be connected to a book. My mother read Goodnight Moon to me every single night. It was a part of our nighttime routine—signed in stone—along with singing Rock a Bye Baby, back rubbing, glasses of water, 38 hugs, and the pesky, “You sat on his bed longer!”
When she got to “Goodnight to the old lady who was whispering…” she would stop and wait. There would be a hanging silence where everything was frozen. Then we would all breath it out together, “hushhhh.”
On nights where she read Where the Wild Things Are, we would make her take the book out of the room and shove it between big books in the living room so they couldn’t get out. As she left the room those nights, she’d say, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.”
Literary references were common banter in our house. I had no idea that there were people who didn’t read every day. People who didn’t know who The Nutshell Kids were or Carole King as Really Rosie.
On the day school ended for summer, we would race home to get my mother and go right to the bookstore on 92nd and Madison. I spent my school year in New York City, but a few days after school let out we drove to Maine for three long and perfect months. I had to have my books for the summer.
My heart pounded as I looked up and down the stacks locating an author or a title. I’d be scanning and then there it would be and for a moment my pulse would slow down while I set the book on my pile and checked the list.
There was a library in Maine. A lovely library where I would spend much of my days and where I was allowed to check out books.
But I needed the books on my summer reading list like, well, you get it…I’m an addict. I didn’t just want the ten recommended or required books on my summer reading list, I begged my mother to let me get every single one on a list of over 50 and she acted like that was pretty reasonable. God love that woman.
My mom let me read almost anything I wanted to read, but I remember one drive to Maine where I was in the far back lying on a pillow—for those too young to remember, seatbelts were not required—sobbing my heart out over Flowers in the Attic. In between gasps, I would say something like, “Mom, there was arsenic in the doughnuts!” and then I’d start crying all over again.
All of a sudden, my mom pulled over, got out of the car, threw open the back door, grabbed my book from me, and tossed it away from the car. “Life is short, there are millions of books out there. This trip is long, I cannot listen to this any more. Take out another one and move on.” Then she closed the door, got back in the car, and pulled out. No one said anything. I thought quietly for a moment, then took out A Wrinkle in Time and moved in with the Murrys. She didn’t censor much, so I wasn’t about to question it. I was pretty relieved to get out of that poor Dollanganger family.
Our house in Maine was in a very small town. We rode bicycles everywhere and, even as young as six years old, went about unaccompanied by adults. We lived at the top of the town, my uncles all lived nearby, and my grandparents were in the center of town right next to the library. Some days when it was hot, I would lie down on that cool marble floor and read right through the shelves from left to right. The Wizard of Oz series, The Little Peppers, Trixie Belden, Half Magic, and All of a Kind Family. I was not terribly discriminating, I’d just pick up the next one in line and keep going. If I was hungry, I’d run next door to my grandparent’s for a hot dog.
My love for reading has never waned. I get power and energy from reading. My addiction is stronger than ever. When I read Body and Soul (Frank Conroy) and The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay), I cried through most of it. I become so invested in these characters or real people that I don’t sleep some nights. I have to know how they’ll end up. I know I share this passion as I read to my children (both classroom and home kinds). I. Just. Love. Books. I cannot get enough.
I started this post thinking I would write from the perspective of developing the love of reading as a first grade teacher and mother of a 5 and 6 year old, but I am really not a preacher. I don’t believe you have to be converted. I believe you have to be alive which isn’t a bad deal. “Sign me up!” you might say, “I can do that.”
Because it’s when I know that you are alive, that’s when I can give you a book. That’s when you’ll read about someone else who thinks or does something in that same way that you thought was so darn secret. That kind of connection is what we have to share with people. Like when I read about Franny Dillman hiding in her closet reading and eating potato chips in It All Began with Jane Eyre. “Hey, “ I thought, “I do that.”
When you share how a book changed you, you bring a passion that is unsurpassed. It says, you aren’t alone…there’s that book over there just waiting for you.
Kimberley Moran is a lifelong member of the Nerdy Book Club who just remembered to order her card. She is also a First Grade teacher in Southern Maine. She has worked at a lot of non-profits, taught middle school, and been a literacy specialist. She can be found on her blog at 1stinmaine.blogspot.com and on twitter @kagmoran.