I love to read. I always have. Books and music kept me alive during a childhood filled with walking on eggshells around my volatile father. I could escape from him and immerse myself in another world. Before I had children, I was the sort of reader who would forgo meals, screw-up her bedtime, walk with the book to the bathroom. I didn't want to leave that moment. That got harder when the kids came, because you kind of have to feed them routinely, wash them routinely, routine them routinely. So, reading was crammed in-between things, on the train, bathroom breaks, lunch break at work, etc. Interestingly enough, not at bedtime like a lot of people I know. Aside from parts of my life where insomnia would allow three fingers worth of sleep, usually I'm so wiped out by the time I go to bed, I can't even think about reading.
My mother inspired and demanded this love of words. When we were little, she would take us to the library long before we could sign our own name to the card. We could take whatever we wanted, as long as we remembered them all when it came time to take them back. No late fees. She'd cart them in big bags and usually cap us at 10 a piece. As we got older, we carried our own selections, wandered off alone throughout the library to reflect and breath. The library of my teenage years was in an old Victorian house that had been converted to book heaven. Shelves covering every available wall, nook and cranny. The upstairs was the kid's section; they had a turtle. We camped out for as long as Mom wanted to stay. There were no time limits on books.
I can tell you about different parts of my life and the books I was reading during that time, how they changed me, helped me to have a better understanding about myself and those around me. I used to read something and share every detail with Mom. It's an eye opening experience when you realize that you can't do that all the time. We had very different opinions on a number of topics, and not surprisingly, we would butt heads. I remember very clearly being enamored by Erica Jong's Witches. Filled with fact and fiction, there was also a healthy dose of sexuality, paintings, prose, poetry ... provocative to say the least. I kept my library books under my bed, but I guess when Mom was cleaning or whatever, she came across it and was disturbed. I think I was 11 or 12. This led to her bringing my beloved Aunt in for what we would call an intervention nowadays for a discussion on how I was potentially jeopardizing my soul. In my mind, my father was there, which if I'm remembering right means this was his doing. I was mortified that my Aunt was asked to do this and at the idea that this meant not all books were equal or worthy. But it taught me a very powerful lesson, to keep my own counsel. It also taught me that there were philosophies and ideas that would make others ashamed of you, and when you're young that can be daunting. The second lesson, learned over time, was that other people's concerns about what I was reading, and whether or not to shame me for it, was a way to control what I was thinking and how I would move my life forward.
In 18 years of selling books, you saw that on both sides. Kids shouldn't read the Goosebumps series. Comics aren't real books. This or that flavor of the month isn't any good. Oprah is bringing about our societal downfall. Romance books are all trash. Stephanie Meyer sucks. 50 Shades of Grey sucks. Harry Potter promotes the occult. Why do you have a Gay & Lesbian studies section? A Woman's studies section? A New Age section? The list goes on and on. Most booksellers, and I would imagine librarians, don't care what you're reading, as long as you're reading. There are some who probably fall in the above camps, and I would suggest you and your offspring avoid them at all costs. We have always had a rule in our household. You can read whatever you want, but if something disturbs or concerns you, you have to talk to Mama or Dada about it. There are books in our home that we have suggested they should wait on consuming, as the themes might be more than they're ready for, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it one day. You need to challenge your comfort level, push your brain to question. It's too easy to be a sheep, and frankly, that's what popular culture and the establishment want from you. Those who read and write, those who question and challenge will keep the lamps lit. Give books, read books, read online, read magazines, read cereal boxes, read every word you can.