Today I am writing about the book I want as a holiday gift. It’s not straightforward. When I was a child, my dad was a schoolteacher in a small town in Texas. He loved the job, but eventually realized his family would always be poor living on the salary of a small-town teacher. So he moved on to the corporate world.
But this is not a post about money--it’s about the value of reading. No matter how poor we were, my parents always managed to find the funds to buy books. We also went to the library, and I have fond memories of feeling awestruck when I went into rooms filled with books. But I also remember my mother getting books in the mail. I never thought about where they came from, but I assume she belonged to a book-of-the-month club. Precious funds spent on books. I still have some of those books.
This may explain why I begged my daddy to teach me to read before I started school. And this man, a World War II veteran, still in his 20s, with a wife and two small children, working full time AND going to college on the GI bill found time to teach me. After that I read everything I could get my hands on, and at Christmas I received books. Yes, I still have those, too. When I was six I got the Nancy Drew book The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion. It may be no exaggeration to say that I read that book thirty times. As much as I loved going to the library, there was nothing quite like owning a book.
These days I buy whatever books I want. The one I can’t wait to buy now is Tim Hallinan’s Fields Where They Lay, which has gotten raves from every direction. I tried to buy it at a bookstore yesterday, and they didn’t have it. It isn’t as if I have to have it today. I have at least 500 books in my to-be-read piles. But where books are concerned, I’m greedy.
So here’s what I want this holiday season: I want children who can’t afford books to get them. Many may say, “Oh, but they need food and clothing and shelter.” I hope they get that, too. But feeding the imagination is just a small step below feeding the body. I want children everywhere to be able to read and to have the books they need.
So if you are reading this and are so inclined, here is a website where you can choose a place to donate books to children: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/11/book-charities-that-help-kids_n_6817484.html.
Meanwhile, happy holidays—and happy reading.