Do you remember that old tv show called Reading Rainbow? For those who know me, I guess it should come as no surprise that I used to love that show. I mean seriously. A show about books. I don’t remember a whole lot about the show, but I definitely remember the theme song that would play as the show began each day. It said things like “I can go anywhere!” “I can be anything! Take a look, it’s in a book – Reading Rainbow.” As it played kids were shown to be transformed, transported to a different world – becoming princesses or sailors as they opened a book. I can’t help but find it incredibly ironic that there was actually a tv show that was all about reading. Even as I smile at the irony though, I must admit the thought to be refreshing. We sure don’t have tv like that anymore. But even if we did, I’m not sure it would make any difference. I look around and I see a culture that has lost the pure simple joy of reading.
I don’t know if the love of reading is inherent – often times I find myself thinking I must have come out of the womb longing to see those pages turn – but I’m inclined to believe it’s not. Perhaps some will inherently have a greater love of reading, but generally I think an enjoyment of reading is something that must be cultivated. Some of my favorite memories include listening to my dad read to my sister and I every night before we went to bed. He would come into our bedroom and sit on our bed as our pajama clad bodies snuggled around him waiting to hear his slow and steady voice unfold the next mysteries of the chosen book. How much I appreciate these times now! Now that I am too old to climb into my dad’s lap and beg him for “just one more chapter” and must content myself with dreaming of the day I too will make the words on a page come alive for my chlidren.
For me, books hold so much it’s funny to think about why I love them like I do. Is it our history – the friendless days, the expectant hours, the strict Sundays all spent pouring over the pages of a book – or is it simply the possibilities those pages hold? When I read a book, I read it for one of two reasons – pleasure or knowledge (which should be a pleasure though I do not always easily submit to it). Pleasure can then be divided into two basic categories for me – excitement and beauty. There are those books I read simply because I find them exciting and interesting. They make my mind spin and my heart race as I desperately wonder what will happen next. They are a sort of candy. I gobble them up because I love them but do not often take the time to savor them. Beauty, on the other hand, slows me down a little. I see in the words, the characters, the setting, the story something worth my time. Something captivating. Even when I withdraw from the story, I find my mind full of contemplations, tumbling around, filling me with the desire to discover what lies beyond the black type – what passions flowed through the author’s fingers and filled a once blank page.
I also read in order to gain knowledge and understanding, to enrich and grow this poor instrument I call my mind. Although I prefer novels to be the tools used to accomplish this, as time passes I am more and more urged towards greater discipline. The reading of words which reflect study, wisdom, and prayer is not something that is easy for me. I am forced to read sentences over and over and I grow easily frustrated with my failed attemps to rein my mind in. Still, as a Christian, I am convicted of the fact that I should be be always growing in my knowledge and appreciation of God and His creation and often this growth is more aptly accomplished by reading of the lives and studies of others.
My pastor commented once that without reading there could really be no improvement of the mind. Such a statement scared me. It scared me because I see so many who have no interest in picking up a book – they do not relish the thought of learning nor do they comprehend how such an activity can give them pleasure. It also scared me because, as passionately as I might speak of books, I am easily swept away by the busyness of life and the convienent forms of entertainment available. I recognize this and it dismays me. The improvement of my mind sits on a shelf untouched because I cannot bring myself to value it as I should. All I can do is pray. Pray that I will appreciate the mind God has bestowed me with. Pray that I will have the discipline to apply myself to knowledge. Pray that I will cherish the the study, thoughts, time and efforts of those who have gone before me.
Meanwhile, I meander the aisles of the library, running my hand over the aging bindings and faded words. I envy the pens of eloquence and I bask in the pages which are now forever engraved in history. I choose a book and gently open it. Then I draw it up towards my face and close my eyes as I breathe in the smell of inspiration.