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Read to Me [Tall Drink of Nerd – Book Week]

My parents read books to me. They were pretty busy people, Dad was a farmer and ranch hand, working up to 22 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mom had five kids to care for out in the middle of the country, but they read to me. Since I was the fifth of those five kids, and a late surprise at that, I’m pretty sure my brothers and sisters read to me as well. It’s time to thank them all for giving me a love of story that has lasted my entire life.

I don’t remember much about the first few years, but there is a tale my Mom likes to share of how I sat at my second birthday party and “read” The House that Jack Built. Because I had carried it everywhere with me and insisted that my family read it to me so many times, I had memorized the words and when to turn the pages. That might be a bit of a stretch of my Mother’s pride in an exaggeration, but I like that the legend has floated through my life with me, as a part of my origin myth as a reader.

Most of my reading was unsupervised after the age of seven. I remember discovering Salem’s Lot when I was in the 4th grade. While it totally freaked me out and made me terrified of the dark forever (yes, still to this day) I got hooked on Stephen King. I read a lot of the classics too, but lost myself in the worlds that the horror master created. Until my early 20’s I bought every book he wrote on the day it was released. Around that time, I discovered Clive Barker. Clive’s work came to me the way The House the Jack Built had, it was read to me.

During our first few years together, my boyfriend Seen would read to me as we were falling asleep. He had one arm wrapped around my shoulders and the other hand holding a Clive Barker novel. I know it’s not Shakespeare or Percy Shelley, but it was soothing and quite romantic. His voice rumbling on, guiding me through some alternate universe and eventually to sleep. That was one of the reasons I feel so in love with him. We still read to each other ocassionally. I just got him hooked on the novel John Dies at The End, by reading him the intro and Chapter 1.

There is a magic in reading to someone. You discover a new world together, adding the inflection as you hear it in your head and putting yourself into the story. It bonds the reader and the listener.

When my Dad was in the hospital, my siblings and I took turns reading to him. My sister, Janet, brought Willy Wonka and the Great Glass Elevator to the Oncology ICU ward where Dad spent a few weeks. The goofiness of that kid’s book, the made up characters and situations that were silly enough to make us all giggle, took us away from the trouble and pain. We were no longer in that hospital room, instead we were high above the earth, battling vermicious Knids. It helped to do more than just pass the hours, it brought some light into dark times.

My folks taught me to love books before I learned to walk, by reading to me. That gift has carried me through the highs and lows of life. I highly encourage you to give the same gift to someone you love.

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