Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Analogy

Reading a good book is like a four-year-old’s Halloween.  If you haven’t yet figured out why, we’ll spell it out for you in a few paragraphs. First, a little personal background.

Evans learned to read because of a girl. He managed to make it through school all the way up to his high school junior year by taking the same classes as his smart older sister had the year before. It was kind of ingenious, really. He “borrowed” the near perfect reports and tests she’d carefully saved as a record to her glorious scholastic accomplishments, made a few deliberate mistakes, and collected an easy “B” from the previous year’s “A.” But then Evans fell in love with a dark-eyed literate beauty and, in the hopes of having something intelligent to say to her, actually read a book. It was Catcher in the Rye and it irrevocably changed his life. The beauty went on to marry her childhood sweetheart while Evans began to gorge himself at the literary feast where he once just pretended to eat.

Lynn’s introduction to the joys of reading were not too dissimilar. She was too popular and too consumed with social interaction to do more than the minimum reading to get through high school. But she fell in with a learned crowd in college and they introduced her to The Lord of the Rings. Mesmerized and enchanted by worlds she’d never guessed existed, she would often avoid the mundane subjects her major required in order to pursue love and high adventure between the pages of a paperback novel. Lynn hopes her students never learn how good friends and good books allowed her to procrastinate in business classes while she collected her bachelor’s in Marketing. It wasn’t until Evans helped convince her that she needed to line up her talents with a suitable career that Lynn began her three plus decade of excellence in the science of education, first as a student and then as a teacher. A side benefit was that the reading is so much more entertaining in the Education Department.

We’ve both learned what other devoted readers have: that a good book captures you. It’s not like going to the movies or interacting on the web. Maybe it’s because a reader must meet a book halfway before the magic occurs, but being consumed by another’s written story is an unparalleled escape that can’t be matched by cinema, an amusement park, or Facebook, at least not when you’re an adult. It seems different for kids. 
Before we are capable of understanding that there is more to the world than what happens outside our five senses, we can happily get lost in make believe. Watching our four-year-old grandson don a costume and ask for treats on Halloween looks like what reading a good book does for us. In both cases there is a transformation that goes beyond logic and touches on magic. We lose the innocent escapes as we grow older and more worldly, but, luckily, they can be replaced. There are worlds and wonders waiting for those who are willing to experience a book and, this time of year, they even come with chocolate.

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