In third grade, many of us wanted to read chapter books.I mean really wanted to read chapter books. Picture books and simple children’s books weren’t cutting it. We had to have it. I had read the same book for weeks about how to braid hair. I needed heavier material, something with substance. I wanted something to soothe my busy 9-year-old brain, a book with a challenge.
So those of us who were serious readers sat and waited. During library class, we’d stare at the top shelf at the fat, worn chapter books. I wondered what it was like to finish fourteen whole chapters – to be literary. It didn’t help matters that our librarian at the time didn’t want us to read chapter books, but instead to stick with what we knew. I thought I knew absolutely everything in the world, and I was sure I could handle a chapter book.
I was certain.
On a sunny afternoon, time of year and day unknown, the librarian finally allowed us sweet freedom. After the words of sacred permission were spoken, I remember lunging from my seat and climbing over a gaggle of girls also reaching for chapter books. I stepped up on the stool, and grabbed the most appealing book. I was nine years old and book-hungry, but I still judged a book by its cover. I grabbed a worn, cotton-candy pink chapter book, one of many in The Babysitters Club series.
I marched to the check-out desk, filled out the library card, and went back to my table. Quickly, I dove into the book, aligning my bookmark to the line of text. I was rapid. I was in awe. I was enlightened.
It took me exactly a week to finish the book, and completed my story as soon as we were dismissed to the library. I remember little of what I read after that first book, but I do remember that reading was frequent and furious. One time, I was asked not to read and walk down the hallway at the same time. When I didn’t succumb to motion sickness, I would read on the bus ride home. I’ve read on planes and in cars, on benches and under trees.
During my college years, I was an English major. Naturally, I read. I checked out books from the library that weren’t assigned for class and read those, too. Sometimes, after working enough shifts at my campus’s safety office, I would go to a local bookstore and buy a volume of poetry or books from the “Buy 2, Get 1” table. Typically, I don’t throw money around, but for books, it was different.
In Korea, I often ventured into the Kyobo Bookstore in Seoul. The bookstore teemed with Koreans and foreigners alike, checking out the latest English-language books. Sometimes I stood in the rows, quietly thumbing through books. Other times, I spent hard-earned won on three or four books at a time. (I spent most of my money in Korea on books, domestic airfare to-and-from Seoul, smoothies, and a trip to Japan). During the rare times I experienced homesickness, books reminded me of the familiar.
Stateside, my relationship with books has remained as strong as ever. I review free books in exchange for honest reviews. When I visit my boyfriend in New England, we will sit for hours in a bookstore with coffee and stacks of literature. I scout Amazon for new releases and to reward myself, I’ll sometimes buy another book. Just because. At home, I have an Amish-made bookshelf with about 60 books on it, lined up by size. Those are but a few of my books.
Now that I’m finished with my master’s degree and other assorted graduate classes, I read on the porch after school. This is especially enjoyable on Sundays, when the world has slowed to a near halt. I find great joy in having books around, and working through boxes of older books that used to grace my college bookshelf. It’s hard to explain the phenomenon to someone who doesn’t like books, or doesn’t enjoy reading. Something I don’t understand.
In the end, I knew I loved books and reading from that one defining moment in my third grade library. Words were beautiful, and they were even more beautiful on the pages of a story. I don’t think that books will ever die, even in light of e-readers and e-books. I believe they’ll be around a while. As long as there’s third grade girls wanting to read chapter books, books will always have a place.