Every person is made up by their past experiences. The sum of those experiences makes them the person they are today. Their likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and dreams all have root in moments and memories. One of these moments from our past influenced us to become readers, we didn’t just wake up one morning with a yen for a good book without some kind of outside influence.
We all have different experiences that led us to being who we are. Different moments that have culminated into us being readers, to finding joy in books and stories. No two individuals and no two readers are the same and all of our stories that have brought us here are also very different.
One of my earliest, and clearest, memories from childhood is my mother putting me to bed each night. She would tuck me in, talk to me for a minute, and then sit down on the floor by my bed and read me a story. At the time I thought nothing of it, it was just a normal part of our day. It wasn’t until I went to school and made some friends that I realized that it was actually pretty odd that my mother did this.
Take for instance my childhood best friend. If memory serves, her mother didn’t know know how to read. Of all the times I visited their house as a child I can not remember once seeing a book there that wasn’t school related. It may sound odd to some of you that a grown woman couldn’t read but where I grew up, it really wasn’t all that uncommon. I spent the first decade of my life in a small town in the mountains of West Virginia. Education wasn’t something that most people put emphasis on.
My mother reading to me every night is just one of the small moments that turned me toward books as an adult. Books were just always in our house. My mother and sister both read just for fun. At the time I thought they were crazy. Why sit inside with a book when you can be outside jumping in the leaves or running across a field, the bright sunshine on your face?
While I grew up with the written word, I didn’t truly get into reading for many years. The first book I picked up completely for the fun of it was Harry Potter. I truly believe that my generation was blessed to grow up with Harry Potter. As he and his friends grew in the story so did we grow in our lives. As he aged, we aged, and nearly at the same time. I recall the excitement and utter joy I had when Goblet of Fire came out. It was the first book I ever anticipated for release. If pre-orders, high speed internet, and Amazon next day delivery had been out of it’s infancy at the time you bet I would have convinced my mother to have ordered that book for me.
I certainly continued to read since then, maybe finishing three or four books a year. It wasn’t a focus for me, just something that gave me joy from time to time when there was nothing else pressing going on. That changed about five years ago. My then boyfriend, now husband, joined the military and we began the odyssey that is moving bases on the military’s orders. That was five years ago and since then we have lived in five different cities in four separate states.
My late twenties were filled with continuous upheaval and chaos and I found myself more and more often turning to books and stories as a source of comfort. The characters and worlds between the pages became my traveling home. They were constant no matter where our feet landed. I knew, no matter what town I saw out my window, I could open a book and be somewhere that was familiar and unchanging.
I could go to Mordor with Bilbo, talk to dragons with Cimorene, go to the circus with Celia and Marco, or fight Scion with Paige whenever I liked. I only had to turn the page. They became my constant companions and though my family is comfortably settled (at least for now) the love and comfort of reading has stuck with me.
The worlds between pages, the characters that live there, and the stories they tell feel like home. They are my constant companions and while those years of upheaval took their toll on me in some ways, they also gave me a gift. I am grateful to have found this community of fellow readers. Grateful to be able to pick up a book and be immersed in a story. And grateful to share my thoughts with you all.
This is why I read. It’s why I find myself at the library a couple times a week or curled up on the couch reading whatever book I’m in the middle of out loud to my daughter. Books will always feel like home now and I am thankful to them and the wonderful people who write them.
Why do you read?