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When I was back in Michigan last week, one thing I wanted to accomplish was sorting through all of my books. I have a ton of books. Every birthday, holiday, or scholastic achievement was celebrated with new books for me, not to mention all of the books I bought from every book fair, book sale, and Friends of the Library store I could find. As reading has always been one of the loves of my life, I have books for every age of reader from beginner Little Golden books to The Babysitter’s Club to Disconstructionist Literary Theory. Needless to say, it was a lot to sort through (and I have a hard time letting go of a good book!).
It didn’t take me long to determine I would never reread The thin Disney’s the Little Mermaid I had stuffed in a box in the closet, nor would I be reading many of the other titles again. Those phases of life, for me, were passed. I don’t have any pigtail-laden little girls to read them to, either. But some of those books were just to good to be stored in a bin, never to be read again. I remembered the joy I had reading them, the worlds they opened me up to. Some things are just too good to keep to yourself.
My cousin has an almost six year old daughter (which is WAY older than five, you understand), Jemilia, who likes to read. She’s read every book that she has. My hometown no longer has a library (which, when I discovered this, made me feel like I’d lost a close friend), so her only source of books is her family and the school (which, of course, is about to close for the summer). Keeping this in mind, I combed my collection for books that were appropriate for a smart almost six year old.
The first book that went into this pile was My Body is Private. That’s very important reading for a little girl nowadays. Then came the disney books and one about a tiny elephant eating from a jar of peanut butter. I noticed some were missing. Where on earth was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?
Of course, there were some I just couldn’t part with. My huge hardcover collectable Disney books based on the movies, for one. My grandmother gave me those. Also, the treasury of Hans Christian Anderson fairytales she’d also given me. I intend for my child/ren to have them one day. But the rest went on the pile, no matter how much it hurt to see these old friends go.
Jemilia and her grandmother stopped by as I was going through old notebooks upstairs. I sent the pile of books down with my brother, pausing to look out the window. She reached for the pile, which was almost as big as she was, but her grandmother took it for her. She tugged on her grandmother’s shirt until she bent down, then took The Little Mermaid off the top. As they started walking back home, she already had the book open and was reading, not watching where she was going, and not caring much where she ended up. I smiled. “That was my favorite one, too!” I thought, then turned back to my notebooks.
Isn’t the best look in the world the look we get when we fall into a book, no matter what age we are? The hunger, the wonder, the pure joy that comes over our face is almost unmatched. We all look like rapt children when in those moments, open and hopeful and imaginative. This is what makes me upset when people say they don’t like reading, or hate English, the thought that I’ll never surprise that look of wonder on their face. With everything else that happens in this life, I think everyone should feel the joy of reading.
So I used precious cargo room in my car to bring back books I have no intention of ever reading again. Among them are well loved copies of The Babysitter’s Club, The Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books. As the school year has ended, a sister at church wants to continue the tutoring outreach to include a reading and math help summer program. These books could be the start of a lending library for summer reading.
There’s nothing I love more than sharing my love of reading with others, especially those who just haven’t discovered the book that unlocks that love in them. I believe we all have it within us (I should really be an English teacher, shouldn’t I? LOL). I want to cultivate a love of reading in some, and nurture it in others. I want to have pass on my passion. I’m glad I’ve found a way to do it…and declutter my home!
How are you passing on your passion?