I don't have a memory of learning to read. It feels like something I've always been able to do from a very young age.
But my love of books probably had something to do with the one pictured above because I remember it vividly as my favorite book as a young elementary school student. I don't clearly recall any books before it. This one was special. Our school was having a book fair. I must have carefully perused the hundreds of titles, enjoying the shapes, colors, fonts. And somehow, I made my selection. I don't know what drew me to the book, but I knew I had to have it. Sideways Stories From Wayside School. Can you imagine a school accidentally built 30 stories tall, one classroom stacked on top of another instead of one story high with 30 classrooms? The book was full of short stories centered on the wacky, interesting students and teachers at this funny school.
What I remember most clearly, however, is that when I brought the book up to the check-out table I found out I was ten cents short. My face fell. The lady suggested I return the book to the shelves. Then suddenly, a much-loved teacher, who happened to be sitting near by, reached into her pocket and tossed a dime onto the table for me. I was shocked at her generosity. You might be thinking, it was only a dime! That's hardly anything. But I can't tell you the impact it had on me. The book belonged to me! I owned it. And I read it cover to cover a million times.
I still have my copy of that book. And when I see Ava or Nate enjoying it, or they read paragraphs of it out loud to me because of their excitement to share it...I get chills. That book is a big part of my history, of whatever it is that makes me me.
I think that's part of why I am so greatly enjoying a recent release called The End of Your Life Book Club. Will Schwalbe writes about the books he and his mother read and discuss in their own informal book club of two during the last months of her life as she receives chemo treatments for terminal cancer. The books come alive. They represent so much between the author and his mom. They are more than stories. They become pieces of the people who read them, who pass them on, who discuss them and are touched by them.
Books have a tremendous power, a power I am afraid we are beginning to forget and ignore. I am inspired anew to read and share books with others, especially my kids, because by doing so we deepen our understanding of each other and our connection.