Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Reading Promise

You know the kind of book that is a good read all the way through, frustrates you near the end because of the injustices that befall the protagonists, and then leaves you to shut the book with satisfaction and an undeniable sense of being fired-up for all the right reasons? Well, I finished that kind of book this morning.

I had pulled "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared" out of the shelf in my Mum's office at home when I was there in late November. As I always do, I started right inside the front cover and read through the five and a half pages of acclaim for the book. Then I dived in to the foreword, by the author's father, the hero of the story. But it took me weeks to get through the eight-page foreword and the following two-page introduction. I didn't turn to Chapter 1 until the first day of the New Year. And then, a few chapters in, I lost my interest in reading for a few weeks as my grandmother grew weaker and eventually lost her battle with the quick-growing cancer that had invaded her lungs several months earlier. I didn't pick up the book again until sometime last week. Since then, though, I have flown through it, in between reading posts from the blogs I follow (the main reason I don't read real books near as much as I used to...). This morning I finished it. And when I chatted with my mother and told her that I had finished a book that I had found in her library, I learned it was actually my Grandma's book that she had loaned to my Mum for her to read.

Between this knowledge and the last few chapters of the book - which share the story of the author's father losing his passion in life when the school libraries he had worked at for years told him to cut down on reading to the children (in favour of teaching them how to use computers) and eventually to stop reading to them altogether - I could have felt saddened. Saddened by a world (or at least a country or culture) that doesn't value the written word or the practice of reading to children anymore. And saddened by the fact that I no longer have a living grandmother. But, can honestly say that I wasn't saddened. In fact, I was encouraged by the turn of events at the end of the book where the father finds others who can appreciate his gift of reading aloud, those in nursing homes, preschools, and hospitals. And encouraged by the fact that there are still people out there who care about words and about reading. People like my Grandma, a former schoolteacher, who, as a mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, and wife, read to those around her and always encouraged reading. There is hope for this world because of people like those in the book and because of people like her. And I for one, have regained my interesting in reading again, and have a rekindled desire to surround myself and my family with amazing books, and to continue to share them with those around me.

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