I have an addiction to reading. It started at a young age. I actually blame my mother for this addiction who drug us to libraries and constantly asked what we were reading. Bags and armfuls of books came home from the library with each trip.
My first ‘big’ book was Gone with the Wind. It seems like an odd choice to be the first adult book, especially as it is so large, but I was intrigued. I wanted to learn more about the Civil War and read the book the movie where the book came from. I was twelve. I couldn’t put it down. I carried the book with me everywhere. I was hooked.
Since I am the oldest of a large tribe of siblings, I needed to get clever in hiding to read so I wouldn’t be disturbed. I laid on the floor of my bedroom on the opposite side of my bed to read. I hid in the backyard. Once I read in the garage. The best place of all was in the formal living room. Since it had white carpet the children were not to walk in there. The parallel stripes on the carpet from the vacuum cleaner quickly tattled on whomever dared to tiptoe across those silky strands. Despite the mandate, the green swivel rocker on the front edge possessed the optimal place to hide since it could be turned around backwards. The challenge remained getting there over that forbidden carpet which left the telltale trespassing signs of footprints.
But … but with careful planning, and I mean very strategic balance and planning, I could jump from the tile floor at the entryway and land on one tiptoed foot behind the rocker. Then, I’d turn the rocker backwards, sit down cross-legged and lean over to wipe my toe marks out of the carpet. It took planning, balance, timing and sleuth-like ability to not make noise, but it was worth it. I could sit there for hours without being noticed.
The addiction continues to this day. My heart skips a beat when I see a library or a Barnes & Nobles. My favorite, though, are the local-owned bookstores. I seek for those. I have a favorite in my hometown. I know the owner who gives me a deal. I can sell books to her -which almost pays for my addiction. (Or so I’ve convinced myself to relieve the guilt.)
What is about books? The wealth of knowledge contained in them. The ability to escape in a good piece of fiction. The look of them lined up on my shelves (or stacked on my floor, as the case may be at times). The sound of flipping through the pages. The touch of the pages on my fingertips. The weight of the volume in my hands. And … my most dearly held secret … the smell. (This can be tricky. It needs to be done in secret so that I’m not seen as a weirdo. Holding the book close to my face, I flip the pages and inhale. Be careful before you start doing it. Once you start you won’t be able to stop. You’ll be searching for ways to sneak in a sniff without being caught.)
I’ve passed down my addiction. At the beginning of each summer, I ask my children to write on the chalkboard in the kitchen what they want to do during the summer. Items are added and subtracted from the list all summer. The local bookstore is the first item. It is also the last item. We go repeatedly throughout the summer. It cannot be helped. It calls to us. It is in the historical downtown district of my city which was founded in the 1820s. The buildings are old and restored. There are small businesses. A soda shop. Farmer’s markets. Two lane roads. Everything that screams out small American frontier town.
The other day we went to the bookstore. I turned down the aisle looking for my fourteen-year-old daughter and there she was! Smelling a book!
“What are you doing?” I broached the question softly.
“I want to read this book but I don’t want a copy that doesn’t smell right.”
I walked away proud. My addiction will continue to the next generation.
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.