There is nothing quite like the feeling of walking through a bookstore, my eyes drifting along the spines. When my eyes light on the book I’m searching for, my heart skips a beat, a slight stutter that I would miss entirely if I weren’t paying attention. Carefully, I pull it from the shelf, running my hand lovingly over the cover, feeling for any raised words or textures that have been added. The weight of it gets me wondering if I will finish it in one sitting or if I’ll need to devote a few afternoons. And I’m torn—do I want to read it quickly, turning the pages to figure out how it ends? Or do I want to absorb it, savoring each carefully picked work? Finally, I breathe deeply, taking in the new book smell. I live in this moment and hold onto it as long as I can, knowing that my new book and I can only be introduced once, and that the next time I pick it up, some of the magic will be gone.
Most of us know how to read. We spend the first few years of our school career picking out letters, putting them together, sounding them out until we can form the words. Anyone can read, but not everyone is a reader.
It was my mom and grandparents who taught me how to be a reader. For them, reading was as essential as food and water, sleep and shelter. My mom would read late into the night, head propped up on pillows, her light dim so she wouldn’t keep my dad up. My grandparents showed me that there was no better way to spend a lazy afternoon than curled up on a couch with a good book. It was there that I was introduced to the adventures of the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and later, Agatha Christie.
Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. My parents took me weekly to the library, where I came home with stacks of books. Each night was spent tucked in bed with a small light, as I read way past my bedtime. Summertime was the best, where I would read all day, devouring one book after another. And it still holds true.
Being a reader is being a part of a community. It doesn’t matter what the book, if I see someone reading on the train, in the waiting room, or outside on their porch, a smile comes to my face. “Ah, another reader,” I think. But it takes one to know one. Even though we were raised in the same house, not all of my siblings became readers. Sure, they can read, but they don’t have that need to read deep down in their core. They don’t understand my shelf of books, the ones that are loved as dearly as old friends and are pulled down when I need a hug. They don’t see worn covers as proof of a good read.
Even though I have so many different roles to fill every day, being a reader helps remind me that I am still me. I still feel that same wonder I did as a kid when I pick up a new book. My heart still breaks when I finish a sad one. Reading is as essential to me as breathing. That’s why I am a reader.