My Love Affair With Books

Bookcase of books I've already read.

Bookcase of books I’ve already read.

Long before I became a writer, I was a reader. I still am. I remember the exact moment my love affair with books began. My mother set the stage by taking me and my brother to the library and checking out the very best picture books. She always managed to find interesting stories combined with fabulous artwork. She read to us in a soft yet commanding voice, often in character, and her tone never condescended no matter how simple the story.

Mom further instilled my love of books when she started my own little library purchased from various book clubs listed in the back of children’s magazines. I still have my entire collection, and when I married, I inherited all of my husband’s childhood books. Score!

Newly acquired shelves to hold my growing collection.

Newly acquired shelves to hold my growing collection.

Still, it wasn’t until the third grade that I discovered for myself what a treasure a book truly is. My best friend at the time proposed a contest in which we would check out the same book during library time at school. Then we would race to see who could finish the book first. Our selection was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. I trusted I would enjoy the book, but admittedly, my competitive side prompted me to read and win.

Determination to finish first meant that the book went with me to a sleepover at my cousins’ house. While all the other kids played football in the street, I stayed inside and read. In my defense, I wasn’t missing much; it was only football.

So many books, so little time.

So many books, so little time.

Something happened as I sat curled up on my aunt’s couch. The story opened up for me in a way that previous books never had. It’s not that I hadn’t read on my own prior to this or that other books weren’t as good. I remember the wonderful feeling I experienced when my imagination blended with visualizing the story in my head as I read the words on the page. Excitement almost distracted me when I realized how much I loved reading.

Literacy and Democracy

Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy—which many believe goes hand in hand with it—will be dead as well. ~Margaret Atwood

Since I began working at the library, I have seen a decline in the quality of books for children and teenagers.  I have even witnessed a decline in the value of those being read by adults, and it shocks me.  There is very little worth in the written word lately.

My concern is that authors aren’t putting out their best work for the sake of their readers.  I find it hard to believe that some writers are actually proud of what they are producing.  Rather, it seems as if turning a quick buck is the goal.  Again, this is cause for concern.

As a writer, I lay this burden at my own feet first.  My goal is to write a book that will engage my potential audience.  I dream about my novel becoming a classic, but, at the very least, I want to give readers something to chew on mentally.  Even if I create a book that’s just a good story, I work to make sure it’s well written.

What we feed our minds is as important as what we feed our bodies.  I’ll admit that I love a good dessert as much as the next person.  However, even desserts come in varying degrees of quality.  Then again, so does much of what we eat to sustain ourselves.  What I mean is, a diet of garbage from fast food restaurants isn’t going to provide what our bodies need.  I could probably live a better life eating my mother’s homemade desserts all the time, not that I would.

The same is true with what we choose to read.  I can’t fill my mind with endless garbage and expect to increase my knowledge and/or awareness of the world around me.  Too much cotton candy for the brain will render me useless.  I’ll die without anything of value to read.  This is the point where someone will want to debate who assigns value to what is being written and read.

But just for a moment, let’s be logical.  A steady stream of unintelligent reading is harmful.  Like cotton candy, it’s fun for the moment, but it won’t sustain you.  Train your brain to crave the weightier reads the way you teach your body to desire healthy food.  I promise you, there are no negative side effects to nourishing your mind.

As for the link to democracy, even if someone lies to you about a situation, you will know better because you took the time to read and find out.  You will not be led around by the nose.  You’ll be mentally strong enough to meet their attempted deception head on.  You will understand what is being said to you.  What’s more, you’ll be prepared to fight back.

So I implore you:  seek out quality reading.  Treasure it and share it with the upcoming generations.  Write the very best you have to offer.  By providing worthy literature, poetry, screenplays, etc., you will leave a foundation for the youth.  In return, they will know how to take care of you in your golden years as well as prepare for the generation coming up under them.

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