I am reading a book that challenged me to write about my earliest memories of reading and about the influence that reading has had in my life. So I did. Here is what I came up with:
Reading is a gift.
Reading was something that I was naturally good at. As a kid I wasn’t very good at sports and my handwriting was atrocious, but I could read, and I read well at an early age. My earliest “reading” memory takes me back to Ferg’s Barber Shop in Jerome, Idaho where I see myself standing in a barber chair (as a five-year-old) reading the daily paper out loud to a chuckling barber and a crowd of grinning old men who were more interested in “chewing the cud” than getting a haircut. The host of this show was my grandad. He had been boasting to the men in the shop that I could read as well any of them and they scoffingly urged him to prove it. Thus, there I stood, reading aloud the local rag when I should have been having my “ears lowered.” I liked being good at reading (and making my Grandad proud).
My next reading memory involves comic books, especially Spider-Man comics. In my early elementary school years I would accompany my mother to the Smith’s Food King grocery store, and while she bought the groceries for the week, I would camp out at the comic book rack. As my mom shopped, I sat on the floor and devoured as many comic books as possible: Batman, Superman, Dennis the Menace, The Fantastic Four, . . . you name it, but I never even glanced at the new Spider-Man comic. I left it on the rack, untouched, until I saw my mom wheel her overloaded grocery cart into the checkout lane. Each week I was allowed to buy “one” comic book (they were 35 cents each), and my purchase choice was always Spider-Man. In the car, on the way home from the store, I savored my new Spider-Man comic book . . . I read it over and over again, every day, until the next trip to Smith’s Food King. (I have a box of Spider-Man comic books in my garage today. Now, 40 years later, I suspect they are worth a bit more than 35 cents a piece. . . . They’re not for sale.)
In fifth grade I fell in love with reading. It was a weird year and great year. I started fifth grade with one teacher and ended the year with another. My first teacher passed away (she was elderly, at least in my 10-year-old mind) and at mid-year we got a new teacher, her name was Miss Dillon. She was a first-year teacher, young, beautiful, vivacious, fun, (did I mention beautiful?) and she loved reading. My first teacher (the one that passed away) didn’t read aloud to us (we were "too old for that”) but Miss Dillon was so enthusiastic about reading that she wanted to read aloud to us. She started off by reading to us one of her favorite books, The Hobbit. Need I say more? From that point on you could never find a Tolkien book on the shelf of the school library, they were always checked out. And I was hooked. I broadened my reading from comics to include books like Old Yeller, The Lord of the Rings, Where the Red Fern Grows and The Iceberg Hermit, to name a few. In fifth grade I fell in love with reading (and Miss Dillon).
I am an avid reader today. I read for pleasure, for fun, for information, for work (I’m a teacher and I read aloud to my fifth-graders) and I read to grow in my faith and walk with Jesus Christ. I have read hundreds of books that God has used as a means of growth and grace in my life. I read the Bible every day. Wow, it is so good. The Bible is God’s word to us today. It speaks of God’s goodness, His promises, His glory and His love for all the world. Reading the Bible helps me to gain wisdom and understanding, and reading God’s Word helps me to grow in my faith and draw closer to God.
Reading is a gift (many thanks to Grandad, Mom, Miss Dillon and most of all, God).
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. (James 1:17, ESV)