It was so easy to read as a kid. I grew up as an only child and I would spend hours—whole afternoons—lost in a book. Tucked away in a favorite chair or up in a climbing tree, I would enter the wardrobe with Lucy Pevensie, cross the Lake of Shining Waters with Anne Shirley, or explore the Phantom Tollbooth with Milo.
It’s harder to read as an adult. Life and kids and responsibilities get in the way, and it can be hard not to see my time reading as wasted time when other responsibilities press down on me. Yet I’ve realized that taking the time to read is just as important for me—if not more so— now than it was when I was growing up. Here are a few of the reasons.
Reading helps to keep my world big. As a stay-at-home mom living in suburbia, my world can sometimes feel small. I can get caught up in changing diapers or keeping the house clean, and something that happens halfway around the world feels unimportant in my life. But then I read a book like Half a Yellow Sun or Inside Out and Back Again and I’m transported to another place on the globe, where I get to know characters who matter to me. This opens me up to feeling like a part of another community and a larger world. Now when I hear a reference to Nigeria or Vietnam in the news, it’s no longer a random place I’ve never visited—I feel a connection to this place and its people because of the books I’ve read.
Reading gives me compassion. It can be easy to get caught up in my own story and to surround myself with people who are like me. Reading helps open my mind and my heart to people whose stories are different from my own. It helps me to see the world through different eyes and to understand different circumstances and experiences. After I get caught up in a story like The Nightingale or The Book of Ebenezer Le Page , I come away feeling that I truly know the characters. Their stories become embedded in me. And those stories allow me to better interact with the stories of those around me, and give me more compassion when the stories are very different from my own.
Reading helps me understand myself. Sometimes I just need perspective. Perspective on who I am now, and where I’ve come from, and how I’ve changed. Finding just the right book, whose author uses just the right words to describe something I know in my own life can be a magical experience. It gives me words to describe myself and my experience in new ways. I’ve experienced this with Gilead and The Snow Child . It’s the search for these kinds of books—the ones that describe specific moments in my life perfectly, using words I never would have put together myself—that keeps me reading day after day.
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