“I do not want to just read books; I want to crawl inside them and live there.” (Anonymous)
Books have a way of transporting us, the words hidden within their covers have the power to steal time as we become immersed in their stories. Reading can be an escape from the strife in the world, a way to grapple with grief or tragedy but also it can bring great joy and enlightenment.
When I was 11 years old, I was banned from my school library for 3 months. The powers that be, namely my teacher and reluctant mother, were concerned that I spent too much time with my nose buried in a book and less time focusing on homework assignments. I was devastated. My reading life was just as important as my playing life with friends. I was that child that read under the covers when it was supposed to be lights out, time for sleep. Of course, I wasn’t fooling anyone, my mother knew what I was up to as most mothers do. She could hardly blame me; she was the one who introduced me to the love of reading. There I was trying to cope with the realization that my sanctuary’s doors were now shut to me for a time, to no longer explore its shelves that spoke of adventure, of fascinating historical figures and outer space. At that time, I spent more time reading non-fiction books, wanting to read to understand more about the world around me and the time before me. To me those stories were far more interesting than the textbooks I was required to read for school. I’m sure there was considerable grumbling on my part, but I did learn to attend to my school-work before carving out time to read. Soon I was reading the beloved classic children’s books that were prized possessions in my bookcase, falling in love with Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time to name just a few. “I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.” (Margaret Atwood) One of my favourite memories some-time after I rediscovered my love of fiction books, was reading The Hobbit together with my mom. The voice she used to speak as Golem sounded eerily like the voice in The Hobbit movies released many years later.
As I grew up, I added to my collection joining the legend of fans for the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. This accumulation was assisted by the arrival each year on my birthday from my maternal great, great-aunt who having no children of her own, sent a package of 4 or 5 books wrapped with a beautiful ribbon and then wrapped again with brown paper. This tradition began with my mother and continued with me. To add to the mystery of this special gift was that they arrived from New York City where my aunt lived, and whom I never met until many years later. Looking back, I recognize how privileged I was to not only have books but that I was also encouraged to spend time reading. Even today in many countries such as South Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Liberia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, illiteracy rates are extremely high amongst young girls and women because most are not given the opportunity to go to school. Reading and having access to books is a luxury that few will ever experience. In Canada, almost 25% of households do not have a single book.
Reading can take place anywhere; I know I never leave the house without a book or my Kobo. The very talented photographer, Steve McCurry, put together an exquisite book of his pictures taken from around the world demonstrating the seductiveness of reading.
“With my eyes closed, I would touch a familiar book and draw its fragrance deep inside me. This was enough to make me happy.”
My love affair with reading has continued over the years, my pile of to-be-read books happily never ending and the list of my favourite authors, too numerous to mention. During the pandemic, there were fabulous virtual author events from North America and the U.K. that I attended helping to broaden my reading base. As life is returning in some form to pre-pandemic days, excitement is building as more of these events and festivals are returning to in-person. One such event is the local GritLit annual literary festival being held on April 21-24th, celebrating 24 authors; learn more about it using the link below. It is sure to be a stupendous few days!