Reading Addict

Published in the Gazette October 28, 2001


“Before we begin, let’s go around and introduce ourselves.  Tell us your name and something about yourself.  Let’s see--name a book you read recently that you enjoyed.”

            I look up from doodling on my notepad.  A book I enjoyed?   This might not be such a bad meeting after all.  My mind drifts back to our living room where I can picture Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a novel about music, love, hostages, and redemption, sitting on the end table where I put it after I finished it last night.  Right here in my bag is Pack of  Two, a book of essays about the relationship between people and dogs.  I loved it so much, it’s now required reading in one of my classes.

            Suddenly a voice interrupts my book-induced reverie.  Someone at the meeting is saying “I don’t think I read any books this summer.”

            My pencil rolls to the ground, and I gasp.  “You didn’t read any books?!”  People sitting close to me look over.  “Well, I didn’t either,” someone else chimes in.  Nobody here looks shocked.  I close my mouth, and once again I realize what I’ve always suspected.

            I am a book addict.

            Does my addiction affect my daily life?  Well, let’s see.  It’s time to shower and get lunches packed for the day—instead, I’m having a morning read.  I’m wondering  about the loud splashing noises the kids are making in the back bathroom—well, maybe I’ll check on them after the next chapter.  I should be putting supper on—it’s my night to cook—but I think I’ll just take a quick five-minute break to read.  My daily plans are often derailed by books.

When I open the cover of a book, I close myself off from the busy world where there’s always something I should be doing, or something I should be worrying about—work, war, or what’s for supper.  When I begin to read, I join someone else’s life, hear someone else’s thoughts, become immersed in a sea of words that become a world.   Sometimes I find a passage so wonderful I need to read it aloud to my husband—that is, if I feel like disturbing him from his book.

It’s not surprising that in a house full of books and two grown-up readers, my children have learned to love books, too.  We started reading to them early, like all the books say you should.  But my reading-to-kids style differs from lots of parenting advice.  “Read with emotion,” the books say.  “Use different voices, and ask your kids questions as you read.” 

That’s not the way I do it.  When my kids climb up next to me on the couch, ready to hear a book, my voice softens and changes, sliding down into a hushed, quiet, tone.  Sometimes I think it’s my mom’s voice I hear, from the time when she used to sit on my bed and read books—Peter Pan, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland—to me and my sister.  The boys snuggle up to me, listening.  We’re all wrapped up in the warmth of a reading cocoon.

I think Robbie, my first-grader, is already a book addict.  I’ve seen him spot an interesting book in the middle of a party, stop, grab the book, and sit down to read while kids run around him.  He was the child who used to roar when someone got in his way at Story Time—“I can’t SEE!” 

At four, Eli doesn’t read on his own yet.  But he seems to understand the comfort books can bring.  The other day he was sitting on the steps, the time-out spot at our house, cooling down after some infraction of house rules.  I was in the kitchen, desperately trying not to listen to his yells of anger and the bounce of his tennis shoes kicking the step.  Then suddenly the tantrum stopped.  Eli appeared in the kitchen with a book.  Tears still streaming down his face, he held it up.  “Read to me.”

A moment earlier I’d been ready to send him to boarding school.   But what could I say to that request?  I sat down with him, opened the book, and read.


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