Thank a Librarian and Hug a Book

National Library Week.

Here’s my brother-in-law and niece on the San Diego town website.

Here’s another one of her with Curious George.

The picture at the Library of Yucan and Enna reading reminds me of many things. One, the wonderful start Enna will have in life, with her love of books and two terrific, involved parents. Two, how books were often my refuge in a childhood that was less predictable and less idyllic. On the occasion of my own niece’s and nephew’s birthdays yesterday, I dragged out old photos of them. Lots of pictures of us reading books. Patting the bunny and counting red fish, blue fish, etc.

Reading became a way for me to see other possibilities when I was a child. Books gave me a chance to imagine different worlds, whether they were in Hobbit shires, rabbit warrens, outer space, or in fictional families different from mine in some other, but important way.

I learned about Xi’an China from National Geographic that my folks always subscribed to. As a child I vowed to see the terra cotta warriors unearthed there some day. And I have. Took me a lot of years to get from that fantasy born at the coffee table in our Indiana house to XI’an. But, I did it. (Funny, I remember the TV was a lot less interesting then. You had to wait for it come on in the morning, staring at a black and white Indian head logo of our local station, until programming began. It ended with the National Anthem at some point in the evening.)

I learned about coral reef habitats and scuba diving and vowed some day, I’d learn to do it so I could exist if only for a moment, hovering weightless among the bright schools of fishes. I’ve seldom been happier than on those dives.

I learned about words themselves. I can remember the two large volumes of our household dictionary A-L and L-Z. I thought these two volumes were grand and they seldom disappointed me. When I saw a massive single volume on its own piece of furniture (was it an OED, perhaps?) at a friend’s house. Wow, “Someday.” I thought.

Where words came from, what other words they were synonymous with, or antonymous (might’ve just made that up..nope, checked it out here.) to. Endless hours following an encyclopedia entry on one new thing to another volume to discover something else, totally new. Which would lead to yet another entry…

Those books had heft, they smelled good, and you could trust them. Good qualities for any of us, come to think of it. Will Wiki be the same for Enna? I can’t imagine it.

I developed a love of language when I found out about French cooking, having found my father’s copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in the closet, under the stairs. I also found old, odd books of his elsewhere.

If there were no books in the house, what would my dreams have been? How might my life have been different? Who can say.

Just in case I’m right, and books really do make a difference, pick one up and read it today. Read one to a kid. Tell someone about a story you once read that changed your view or maybe your life.

2 Responses to “Thank a Librarian and Hug a Book”

  1. 1 Yen-Yen April 16, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Growing up reading was my escape and refuge too. I have fond memories of Caleb practicing on the piano and me curling up underneath the piano with three things: my baby blanket, a blanket and a good book. I’d sped the whole practice session there and often even fall asleep.

    I remember in sixth grade my mom was called in for a parent-teacher conference and prior to the meeting she scolded me for a gazillion possibilities as to the nature of this meeting. Apparently I would quickly start and finish the class assignments while the teacher was still going over the instruction and directions just so I could pull out a book to read when he gave the class a block of time to work.

    Enna has learned the phrase “designated reader” from watching her one of two PBS kids phonics shows. Yucan and I are her official designated readers! I hope my girls will always love reading.

  1. 1 Congratulations Junot Diaz - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author « Jacqueline Church Trackback on April 17, 2008 at 4:40 am

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  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

What's on my list?

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