As a child, I had a difficult time learning how to read. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read. In fact, I desperately wanted to be able to do what my mother and father did every day with me—make words on the page come out of their mouths in magical sounds. I would stare at those squiggly black lines on the page trying to make them into words, into something, anything I could make sense of. I wanted to make them mine.
And then suddenly, one day, BAM, I was reading! The black lines were words, glorious words. I ate every one of them right up and haven’t looked back since. I now work at a literacy non-profit spreading the love and pleasure of, you guessed it, reading. The most incredible moments in my work are when a young person finds a book that they can truly and deeply connect with. Many of my students consistently say “I don’t like reading”, or “Reading is boring”. So, when I see a young person re-reading a Mo Willems Pigeon book for the hundredth time and begging their staff to read it to them, I know I’ve succeeded, if just a little, in helping children see that reading can be joyous.
Although I’ve known that I love reading, lately I’ve been even more grateful of the space it occupies in my life. I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch lately—I’ll spare you the particulars, but let’s just say I’ve been feeling like I’m in a boat floating about in a wild sea with no oar, no sails, and no map. And when in a boat like that, it’s challenging to keep sight of what’s positive and hopeful in life. Instead of seeing the blue sky and taking the time to breathe, I can only see the obnoxious fellow riders on the bus and T, the angry pedestrians, and experience a general feeling of malaise. The other day I was at the gym finishing the book Incredibly Close and Extremely Loud by Jonathan Safron Foer. For unknown reasons, I’ve resisted his books up to this point. I don’t know why, because now I’m a HUGE convert. So, I had loved the book up to this point, but the ending: wow. I had the weirdest experience—I’m on the elliptical, sweating my bum off, physically moving my body , and doing my damnedest not to break out in giant sobs as I try to finish the book. I looked out the window at the breathtakingly blue sky and just thought, Oh man, I am so full of feeling and life and look at that sky and I am alive. And I am alive. Books help keep me alive and for that I am forever happy. If I can continue to find bliss in books and to help other people find bliss, I’ll continue to find meaning in this crazy thing we call life.
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