My parents did something very clever.
Whenever they saw me with a book, they left me alone.
The house could have been on fire. Didn’t matter. They left me alone.
Sometimes, my dad would come hollering up the stairs only to make a bashful retreat when he found me in my room, nose in a book.
I think he did it a couple times on purpose. To reinforce his respect for reading.
As a kid, I couldn’t enforce my own privacy. Unless I wielded a book.
Suddenly a book became very powerful. It was a barrier against the rest of the world. And, eventually, a window into another one.
My parents never asked me “how are you?” or “what did you learn in school today?” It was always “what are you reading?”
And then, for a brief moment, my words were as important as any adult’s. My thoughts, my opinions, and my imaginings were treated with respect.
Other kids saw reading as a chore. It was something teachers forced them to submit to. For me, it was a kind of power I held over my parents. It was the only power I had over them (so I thought) and I was addicted to it.
In a bookstore, I got to choose one book, whatever I wanted. That was power, too. And because I could only take one with me, it forced me to look carefully at dozens of books before making a choice. I got very good at predicting what kind of stories I would enjoy the most. When I got home, I was already invested in what I had.
It didn’t take me long to discover the pleasure of reading for its own sake.