Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Love of Books Began in Childhood

My Love of Books Began in Childhood

My parents have always loved to read and set an exemplary example for their children. They always have had a book at hand. From my earliest knowledge we had books. Even when money was tight to non-existent, we had books. There were fairy tales, and Dr. Seuss, and the poems of Odgen Nash and James Whitcomb Riley.  My father read poetry to use as bedtime stories. I wanted to hear Dad read Riley’s “The Bear Story” over and over because he made it so exciting.  The written word gave us imagination far more than any visual medium today.

Mom and Dad took us to the library regularly. Once we were old enough, we each had a library card. Our town had a summer reading program and if a child read enough books, there was a free movie in the fall. Today this might not seem a big deal; in 1966 it was huge.  Going to a movie was a luxury. But books were food for the soul.

My favorite books in childhood still resonate with me: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit. My mother gave me her volume of Nesbit’s stories in a format that was accessible to children. It was published in 1936. I read the stories multiple times, hiding with the night light under the covers. The book was beautifully illustrated; the language targeted to young people. I read the book from cover to cover and dreamed of Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, and The Taming of the Shrew. I still have my mother’s book and treasure the gift she shared.

A few years later she gave me her original edition of “Gone With The Wind”.  I was mesmerized. I read the 1064 pages of this epic in 3 days – never leaving the living sofa except for family meals. It drew me in like a siren luring Odysseus.  I reread the book until the binding disintegrated. But I still keep it on my shelf in its dilapidated condition because I love it as it is. My imagination was filled with my version of Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Mamie. When I saw the movie I was disappointed at how much the story had been edited. That was the first time, at the age of 11, when I realized that books could never be adequately translated to the silver screen.  I loved “Gone With The Wind”, but the movie never equaled the narrative of the book.

In future posts I will identify those books that have resonated with me at different time of my life.  There are those books that haven’t withstood the test of time for me and other books that have continued to touch my heart.

I can still read Little Women, Romeo and Juliet and Gone With The Wind and recall the same feelings I had when I first encountered these works. That is the sign of a good book to me – leaving me with a feeling that is unlike any other.

And I thank my parents for  sharing their love of books with me and never complaining when I said – “just a minute – I’m finishing a chapter”.

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