When asked “why I read”, there is always a single memory that comes to mind. It’s one of those moments in time where you can smell the air around you and feel the couch beneath you; you re-experience the memory more than see it. When I was a little girl, I remember going up to my Mimi’s cabin in the woods every summer. She had books stashed on every nook and cranny that existed – on shelves, in the loft beds, on bunk bed compartments. No matter where you sat, there was a book within reach. One day, my big sister reached up and picked out Charlotte’s Web. Of course, I saw it and thought it would be overwhelming. However, she sat with me and sounded out each word with a fire blazing in a little old-school oven as I went page by page. This went on for several days during our free time until I had completed my very first chapter book. I know that reliving this tale may not mean much to someone who didn’t live it, but to me – it fostered my love of reading. I was with two of the most amazing women I have ever known and in that moment, I knew they were proud.
During high school, I worked in a public library shelving books and I read all the required reading for my classes. In college, I could barely bring myself to do the reading that I was supposed to. I guess you could say I went through the motions for a long time. I forgot this memory though; forgot how it felt to be consumed so much by a book. Looking back, I suppose in a way I lost myself and I hadn’t even realized it. It wasn’t until I graduated college and had time on my hands that I found myself again. I found myself in these broken characters’ journeys, these love stories, these foreign worlds. I found ways to express myself and put names to my feelings in the beautiful words of authors. So why do I read, you ask? The answer is simple. I read to experience a journey; sometimes a path similar to my own and sometimes one I could never dream walking on. I read because it allows me to escape to a whole other world, even if only for five minutes. I read to continue building the puzzle of my life, knowing that each piece completes me, but knowing I could never be completely filled.
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I was always surrounded by books and encouraged to read as much as I could. When I was in elementary school, we lived within walking distance of the public library and my sister and I would ride our bikes there during the summer and checkout as many books as we could carry home. The library had a summer reading club and I made it my mission to complete as many lists as possible. In middle school I visited the school book fair (you know the ones where they pass out catalogs and wheel in those huge metal shelves filled with books for you to buy). This is where I picked up my first real chapter book (Harry Potter!) and took my journey into the world of reading to the next level. I learned the power of the written word. I learned how it could set my imagination wild and transport me to a completely different world. Reading wasn’t that cool in high school, but I did it anyways. I love the required reading and was often finished way before they were due. I got my first job at the public library and it was there that I experienced just how many types of stories there were and how many people books could touch.
Life got busy once college started and I still read, but not nearly as much as I could have. Life hasn’t slowed down since. Not too long ago, my life took an unexpected turn and I lost myself. I was stuck in the dark and desperately needed an escape from my life. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I downloaded a book on my kindle and started reading. Before I knew it, it was morning and I had finished the book. For the first time in a long time I felt lighter. I had just spent hours somewhere else, being someone else and feeling like maybe I wasn’t completely alone. I met characters that seemed to know me, to understand me and that connection was the spark that ignited a flame. I once heard a quote that said “We’re all addicted to something that takes away the pain” and I know it’s true. In that moment, reading became so much more than a fun hobby, it became a therapy, a necessary connection. Reading gave me a connection to times, places, and people outside of my own reality and in doing so provided me with the ultimate safe haven.