Are you like me right now and feeling a bit too connected to the digital world and a little too disconnected from the real world? In this “stay at home” phase we’re in, I notice how easy it is to get sucked into the digital world of news stories, social media, and television. Since today we are confined to our homes, I thought I would remind you that there is another world out there, a world that can save us from boredom and the rabbit hole of social media. A world that teaches us important lessons and helps us become better, more empathetic people. It is a world that could very well be compared to a life raft, and that is what we need most right now: a life raft that comes to us in the form of books.
I had the blessing of being born to parents who valued education, read to me, and exposed me to the world of literature from the time I was born. My mother, also an educator, spent a significant portion of her career leading the school district’s reading department, where she impacted hundreds of teachers and students throughout the district. Interestingly, it was not her expertise on the subject that made me love reading; it was exposure to the imaginary worlds and indescribable characters she read about that hooked me on the world of books!
As a young child, Amelia Bedilia and the hilarious poems of Shel Silverstein left me rolling on the floor with laughter. As I began to read chapter books, the lives of Kristy, Mary Ann, Claudia, and Stacy in The Babysitter’s Club, The Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew captured my interest. In 5th grade, I discovered the library shelf containing biographies. The lives of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale sparked my interest in medicine and science. Middle School led me to The Upstairs Room by Joanna Reiss and a new genre of interest, historical fiction. It seemed wherever I turned, there was a whole new world waiting for me. (I have to admit historical fiction is still my go-to genre.) As I grew older, I also developed a love for dystopian novels and futuristic thrillers. To this day, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is the book I have read the most times!
Books have helped shape who I’ve become. Reading was the primary draw for me to become an educator. The idea of sharing all those books and stories with kids warmed my heart. For me, reading is like breathing. I am shocked that slightly more than 1 in 4 Americans did not read a book last year, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center1. I am currently active in two book clubs. In these clubs, we actually read the books and both are lifelines to my sanity! Our most recent reads were A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum and Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin. It will be interesting to navigate how we will meet next time, but I am looking forward to discussing the books, nonetheless.
If you are scratching your head as to where you can find books when the world seems to be in lockdown, I want you to know there are many options. This week Audible is offering free access to hundreds of audiobooks for children. For younger readers, Epic and VOOKs are great resources. Both are allowing free subscriptions or trials right now and contain thousands of books and audiobooks across a variety of genres. Our public library is also a great source for free ebooks. My daughters and I use the app Hoopla to access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks through the public library. There are at least two other apps available to access their titles as well. I recently downloaded On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, author of The Hate You Give and winner of numerous educational awards. I look forward to popping in my headphones and falling into a new world as I listen to it while cleaning the house, exercising, and making dinner!
Some of you may already be lifelong readers or book lovers, while others of you may never have found a book that lit that spark. Use this opportunity to find that spark! This is also a chance to reconnect as a family through books. I wish everyone the best during this time and hope you all find a way to escape into another world through reading. Don’t know where to start? Look here for suggestions from Trinity Faculty.
I think Terry Kay captured it best when she explained the experience and satisfaction of delving into a book. I’ll leave you with her poem, “While Reading:”
While reading, I have been –
A cowboy (and an Indian) with Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.
The confederate soldier with Joseph Pennell and Phillip Louis Williams
A pirate with Robert Louis Stevenson
An orphan with Charles Dickens
An eccentric with Flannery O’Connor
A dust bowl traveler with John Steinbeck.
While reading, I have been –
A whaler with Herman Melville
A golden-dreamer with Erskine Coldwell
A small-town barber with Wendell Berry
A runaway with Mark Twain
An old-time gospel god James Weldon Johnson.
While reading, I have been –
A b-flat cornet player with William Price Fox
A battler of windmills with Miguel de Cervantes
An attendant in the House of Gentle Men with Kathy Hepinstall
A basketball player with Pat Conroy, a firefighter with Larry Brown, a defense attorney with John Grisham.
While reading, I have touched the oceans darkest depths and walked on planets in solar systems beyond our seeing.
While reading, I have climbed mountains lost in the clouds, and walked a different road with Robert Frost and gazed at the little cat feet of fog with Carl Sandburg and danced to the language-music of Byron Herbert Reece and Edgar Allan Poe and David Bottoms.
While reading, I have flown the Atlantic with Charles Lindbergh and pierced the caul of space with John Glenn.
While reading, I have stood at Gettysburg with Lincoln and in Montgomery with Martin Luther King, Jr.
While reading, I have rejoiced with the still-living of Dachau on the day of liberation, and I have seen the unspeakable horror of Hiroshima on the day of killing.
While reading, I sat at the feet of Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha, and all the other men of God, and all those who would kill God—the insane, the madman, bigoted, the fanatics.
While reading, I have been a boy and a man, girl and woman. I’ve been young and old. I have died and have been re-born.
While reading, I’ve become people I cannot be, doing things I cannot do. And I do not know of any other experience that could have given me such a life.
Terry Kay, Copyright, 20061. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/