” Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot
If you know me now you wouldn’t know I was ever an avid reader once upon a time. I fantasized about working in a library. The month of January would get me all excited as that was the time for the Calcutta Book Fair.The bookstalls and their discount boards would have me eying them like a hawk. Oh what a treat it would be, when I would chance upon a stall that would announce Buy 1 Get 50% off the other. I would be so lost in those stalls, trying to get the best picks. Parents would often get bored waiting in that crowd. Once I remember, my dad had accompanied me to the fair and after much waiting while I went through what seemed like every book, he wanted to help and spotted a couple of teenagers very excited about a particular book. I was in that same age group about 16 or so. The stall was crowded but we could see each other from two ends of the stall and suddenly I hear him scream “Do want this Jackie Collins novel?” and to make matters worse he points to those teenagers and says, “They seem to be very excited with these. I’m sure you will like it too.” If only he had any idea what trashy novels they were and I didn’t know where to hide my face 🙂 . Like I said I loved reading. Books were my best friend. I always had a book with me. Staying late at night to read, reading a book when ideally I should be studying, hiding a book in my text book and reading; I’ve done it all. Friends, relatives, acquaintances or anyone who knew me for that matter, didn’t have any trouble buying me a gift because they knew nothing makes me more happy than a good book. Infact many of them gifted me books for my marriage 🙂 .
Books to me were a land of the unknown. I remember as a child Enid Blyton was my favorite and infact still is. Her writing took me to places which I wished were real. Even though I read from very early on but it was when I was introduced to Enid Blyton that my interest reached a different height. My first Enid Blyton’s book was The Magic Faraway Tree and believe me after that I never looked at a tree like before. Each tree made me wonder if there was a world inside it. How I loved that series. But then again, all her series have a special place in my heart and mind. Her Circus Series made me want to live in a caravan. Malory Towers and Naughtiest Girl series had me wishing for boarding school. Even the food at the boarding school had me drooling. Then came Famous Five, Secret Seven and the list is endless. Of course as I grew older the authors changed but the love for books always remained.
Then after I got married and moved to the US, you wouldn’t believe it if I said that I was literally in awe of the libraries here. I couldn’t believe we could borrow any number of books and they didn’t charge a dime for it. At last I had found heaven, it seemed. I remember whenever anybody asked me about life here the first thing I would describe in great detail were the libraries, to many of their dismay. Sometimes, I would walk in the children’s section and think to myself how deprived we were as kids. Reading still was very much a part of my life then, but as travel and changing locations; packing and unpacking took such a major part of our life that somewhere reading took a backseat.
Then I was pregnant with Daughter and I remember reading a lot during those days. I think I started reading to her even when she was in my tummy 🙂 . But seriously, very early on I started reading and buying her board books. I don’t think it was a conscious decision on my part but I could never think of childhood without books. We made a point to read her a bedtime story even before she started sleeping through the night. I still remember there were days when our eyes would get blurry due to sleep deprivation but still made an effort to read to her. Once we were so sleepy that while telling her the story of Little Red Riding Hood we told her the granny ate up the wolf 🙂 . But the point was, to read to her even if we got it wrong at times.
Very early on I could see that she really loved her books. Just after she started to talk we would often find her sitting in one corner and pretend reading. Then came a time she would want me to read anything and everything. I remember, she was just about 4 when she started to read. She would read the words by breaking the syllables but if given a story book she would be frustrated because she had not mastered reading and her reading would hinder the pace of the story which she didn’t really like. But that little girl kept up with it , reading toothpaste boxes, shampoo bottles and her favorite was sitting in the shopping cart and reading the cake mix boxes. By the time she was 4.5 years she had mastered the art of reading. Infact now at the age of 5 she can read as good as any of us. She reads books like crazy. The child who has never thrown a tantrum over anything has a long face if we refuse to buy her a book. Each year in her letter to Santa she makes sure that the guy at the north pole knows which books she wants.
Watching her read is such a bliss. She is so oblivious to her surroundings when she is reading. I love to watch her expressions. I can see she loves being in her imaginary world with the fictitious characters. They are more real to her than we are when she is reading. People often ask me what I did to make her such an avid reader but believe me I did nothing other than passing on my love for books, to her and probably keeping age appropriate books in handy always. Today I’m proud to say she is at a much advanced level in reading than her peers and even some seven year olds. Even though as a mother I feel proud of her reading skill but the knowledge that she is going to have so many adventures vicariously with her best friend gives me more happiness.