Archived Story

Reading is an infinite extension cord to the world

Published 11:17am Saturday, August 31, 2013

“Only connect.”
– E.M. Forster

At my local library I recently checked out Jen Adams’ “The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love, and Lit” (FREE PRESS 2012). Through her blog, http://thebookstheygaveme.tumblr.com, she has collected and edited people’s stories of books that have had an impact on their lives.

The books range from Augusten Burroughs’ “Dry,” to Austin Wright’s “Tony and Susan.” The emotions and experiences connected to them are equally wide in spectrum. Amused, bitter, ecstatic…sad, weird and woebegone. You get the idea.

Most recollections are no more than a page, some as short as a couple of sentences (see the hilarious entry on “Lolita”) and others as long as two pages (see the consoling entry on “Letters to a Young Poet”).

It’s been an entertaining and also educating read. The first is in learning people’s reactions to the books, and the second is in adding more entries to my own yard-long book list. Rainer Marie Rilke is one author who’s going closer to the top 10, but only after I finish a collection of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. His style can be challenging, but with patient reading it’s ultimately rewarding.

Waking in the 3 o’clock hour one Friday morning, I moved to the living room and picked up Adams’ collection. One entry caused me to remember the books my parents gave and read to me. Likely owing to the time, the only book that quickly came to mind was C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

My mom gave it to me on returning from a trip to visit relatives in New Hampshire and Massachusetts back in the early 1970s. As people like to say, “I devoured the book.” The same went for the other six in The Chronicles of Narnia. Not too long after I made my first steps into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Some people who know me might say I have never really left.

For my brother’s 30th birthday, I arranged for my parents and his friends to read stories, poems or share their memories of him into a tape recorder. Dad and mom, for example, chose “The Little Red Hen” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Both were books Michael enjoyed when he was little.

My birthday gift, he said later, moved him to tears. High praise, indeed.

All this about books brings to mind what I saw during the “prep rally” this past Thursday at S.P. Morton Elementary School. Reading specialists Laura Vick and Shawn Geary were often speaking to the children at eye level about favorite books or stories. Even at a distance it was apparent that there was an immediate connection between the two adults and children.

I am hopeful that they, along with those who participate in the upcoming Book Buddies and Book Mice programs, will create and strengthen bonds that enable children to read, whether or not learning issues are involved. The same goes for other schools and whatever tutorials they offer.

I suggest that parents reading to children should not be limited just to fiction, but also biographies, mathematics, science and history, to name a few topics. The earlier an interest is developed in the aforementioned subjects, the more likelihood a child’s curiosity will be sparked and stay lit.

One last person personal example: My family used to have a set of encyclopedias, and several volumes contained black and white photographs. My brother and I were free to look through them. The edition containing movies featured stills from several films, one of which captivated: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” For more on that one, by the way, please visit www.imdb.com.

That in turn led to an interest in movies that stays with me to this day.

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