The New York Times published an article last week about how parents who are huge proponents of the e-book reserve it for themselves – and give their kids the “real thing.”
When I was young, my mother took us to the library every week, and we returned home with armloads of books. To this day, when I come out of the library with my tote stuffed, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. (Thanks, Mom!) The same feeling of decadence comes when I buy a book in a bookstore, or unwrap a pile of new books Christmas morning – the knowledge that I will be treating my mind and spirit to an enormous, often life-changing, gift. That I will be checking out of the real world for a while and checking into another timeless one.
In his marvelous memoir A Childhood in the Milky Way: Becoming a Poet in Ohio, David Brendan Hopes describes his childhood visits to the library as almost mystical:
Weekly, I haunted the library shelves, filling my arms with mythologies, paleontology and archaeology, lumbering folios of sea life or the animals of Africa, moving through the green light like a mer-child at the bottom of the sea…The floor tiles, which, except for the lower shelves, were the architectural feature most apparent to a small boy, repeated the jade of the light, alternating it with a foamy cream that showed scuff marks and which therefore one avoided, hopping like a bird from green square to green square. In this way, I meant to pass unmarked into the adult stacks, having been warned against precocity, believing anything delicious must be in some obscure way illicit.
My daughter is now learning how to read, after years of frustration over the inaccessibility of the many books on her bookshelf. We’ve long had the privilege of showing her those hidden worlds; she’s beginning to find them on her own. I look forward to a winter of having her read to us, blanketed on the couch, with a gleam in her eye that grows ever brighter.