I cannot recall a day when I didn’t have a book under my arm, in my backpack or in my briefcase. I’ve treated books like my best friends, sometimes refusing to lend my “friends” to others because they tended to handle my books like they were pieces of paper that could be easily discarded and had little merit.
But I knew better. My parents helped me develop a passion for reading because of the ideas within the covers. Whenever I had questions or could not understand concepts and notions, they’d point me to the room in our house designated as “the library.” Yes, that’s right, even some Black folks have libraries in their homes.
I’d spend hours in silence, without the distraction of television or the radio, reading about faraway places, becoming familiar with historical figures, letting my imagination run wild. Today, young people have even more distractions with their phones and social media apps. And some seem like they have no desire to read. They don’t realize what they’re missing.
Meanwhile, my children in their younger days were, and now my two grandsons are required to read and then, to sit with me now or with my parents in years gone by and share what they’d learned. That was the way we transmitted ideas. That’s the way we passed on our stories to the next generation.
Books were special to me for another reason. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, had been abandoned on the streets of Baltimore when she was 10. She had been forced to drop out of school so that she could find a way to survive. So, her studies ended before she had completed elementary school.
Grandma never lamented over what happened to her, the obstacles placed in her life and she never sought anyone’s pity. She just kept keeping on.
Whenever we were together, she’d reserve time for just the two of us — time during which I would read to her. Sometimes, it would be the Bible. But she would also ask me to read a story that I liked or a book that I may have been reading at the time. Whenever there were words with which she was unfamiliar or concepts that were a bit too complicated, she’d ask me to explain. She would even pull out her dictionary and have me give her the definition of words she didn’t know.
These were our special moments, our treasured moments. And she only reserved them for me. I guess with my thick glasses and mountains of books that I always brought with me during our visits to her home in Williamsburg, Virginia, she wanted me to feel good about my passion for reading, my desire to learn as much as I could. She celebrated the fact that I was a smart little boy. And she loved listening to me read.
I read to my grandmother … because she could not read. And we loved every minute of our story time sessions.
What’s the last book you read? And when did you last read to someone you loved?