The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.
I will never understand the intrigue of a bookless library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.
I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.
To this day I find friends between pages, but none will replace the nostalgia of those as a child. For not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.
For my husband, books held the same kind of allure, the same safety, only he read of Indians and cowboys, of Romans and horses and pilgrims, late at night beneath blanket by the bright of a flashlight. Teased by day for being kind, for having legs too long and a smile too big and for not being like everyone else, he took refuge in the un-judging warmth of literature.
It pulls you deep, the book, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.
And my heart aches for today’s children who know not the comfort of overstuffed chairs and falling-apart spines, who have yet to meet the kinds of friends available on a dog-eared page.
Children who have yet to discover Treasure Island, The Chronicles of Narnia or Swiss Family Robinson. Who have yet to shake hands with Heidi, Winnie the Pooh, the Wind in the Willows, or the Velveteen Rabbit.
So before books become obsolete; before libraries fold like pages across the nation, take your children by the hands and introduce them to tales of old. You never know how you might be saving them.
**wondering: how have books saved you? happy reading this weekend, friends… e.
(photo of our nanny reading to Aiden and Joey)
posts we’re highlighting from this week’s imperfect link-up:
(post written by emily; published in the June 2012 issue of Purpose magazine)