It doesn't shock anyone who knows me that I'm an English teacher because they know I love books and reading. I read through the entire fiction section in the library in high school. I mean it; I started at "A" and read until I got to "Z." And then I had to start over to catch up on the new books for the authors whose last names I'd already read.
I have had any number of libraries of my own, too. I don't want to start calculating how much money I've spent on books over the years. I have stacks of books in my house I haven't even gotten to yet. I have boxes of books still in my parents' attic (don't tell them; I don't have room in my house). I have books everywhere: There isn't a room in my place that doesn't have books in it.
Where did it start, though, this love of reading? The love of the turn of a phrase? The love of falling into a world of someone's creation and experiencing the joys and sorrows and celebrations and tragedies of those characters? If I look back far enough, it was because of the books I loved as a child.
One of my first favorite books was Little Cottontail by Carl Memling; a Little Golden Book about a baby bunny who wanted to grow up too fast. "Not yet, Little Cottontail," the mother crooned...and those words still come to me when I am telling a student to be patient. My favorite picture of me is a Christmas morning picture where I have unwrapped (you guessed it!) a book: T'was the Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore.
I remember being so excited in elementary school when, because I was already reading chapter books stage when the others in my class were still learning how to read, I was allowed to check out books from the "older kids' section" in the library. I devoured the Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, and then The Black Stallion book series by Walter Farley (I was into horses then). I moved on from horses to dogs and other animal stories. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder I read over and over again until I had to tape the covers. Then I moved to fantasy. I still remember fondly a book about a headstrong black-haired fairy named Bluebell. I wish I remembered the name of that book; I don't, but that character has stayed with me for well over 30 years. I still wish I had long dark hair like the main character did.
When my sister and I were in the upper elementary, my dad read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein to us as a bedtime story. He even did the voices! My, what a world was opened to me then! I couldn't wait until I could read the whole series on my own. It's still one of my favorite series to read. I get something new each time. Then, when I was a pre-teen, Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis overtook my imagination. I still own most of the first set my sister bought me for a Christmas present; I've had to replace a couple of the books in the series because students have "borrowed" them forever.
I've already mentioned how I read all the fiction books in the school library, but I also made a nuisance of myself at the public library because during the summer (before I was old enough to get a job other than babysitting) I'd go through their shelves and borrow the maximum number of books I could--six--and then be back the next day to turn those in and check out new ones. I was reading sweet romances --none of those Harlequin novels for me (yet)--about nurses who fell in love with their patients or the doctors they worked for.
I then got into high school and college and met literary geniuses like Emerson and Wordsworth and Shakespeare and fell in love all over again with reading. I couldn't get enough of those words "that take us Lands away" ("There is no frigate like a book" by Emily Dickinson) as I read the stores, poems, plays, and more that my own English teachers introduced to me. It is little wonder that I love reading and sharing with my own students the literature that I hold dear.
Each book (whether it be the actual book or on some e-reading device) is a ticket into a world away from our own. I look at those books as portals that will wing me away to a ball in Regency England or to a futuristic world on Venus or back to ancient Rome or to linger on a hillside covered with golden daffodils.
So, on this Missouri Read-In Day I encourage everyone to grab a book or magazine or anything that strikes your fancy: begin reading and enjoy the journey!