To see her reading

06e5bfc3c36b7370613414065d12cd6eI drink wine because my mother drank wine.

I traveled young because I believe that, if she could go back, she would have traveled young. I read, most definitely, because of her, but I don’t say that in the way that one might think.

I was born in a library.

Not really, but my mother’s postpartum looked like us napping away in a stroller, with her drinking warm cups of tea and meditating somewhere between the shelves of science fiction and romance. And yes, as we got older she did continue to take us to the library once a week to replenish our stock. We did have model bookshelves brimming at home. But I don’t think that’s what created a love of reading.

My fondest memories are my most mundane ones and, in delightful retrospect, I find that the snapshots of those mundane memories — the ones that had me perhaps building things with old recyclable cartons or colouring on a Sunday afternoon — always have a slightly blurred image of her in the background, legs tossed up on the sofa in a z shape, with an old throw covering just her toes, and reading a book.

This is the image of my childhood happiness. I read now because I came to understand the meaning of “contentment” through this image. Peace. Quiet. Sailing away to a far away land on just words, letters, paper, binding and a gentle heartbeat. Contentment was usually sitting just a few feet away, hardly ever interacting with my play, but always incredibly effective.

We were a family that had to move quite a bit and so home really did become where the heart was; security had never meant bricks or blankets. For me, safety looked like young me swimming in a sea of Barbie dolls on the floor and my back facing the sofa that almost always carried a pair of z-shaped legs and a hardcover.

It was in those days, when we apparently had nothing, that her love for the book was transported. It was transported to me through her peace in the presence of books, no matter what life was giving her.

For a chunk of time we lived in an old home in the Southern Ontario sticks. I remember no money troubles, or power outages. I certainly don’t ever remember feeling poor, as they now reminisce we were. I do have images of days of December darkness, but only fondly, sitting, huddled close together in front of a fireplace. I have a vivid image of lying parallel to the hearth, content with having nothing else to do. I took my book out because she took hers out. We had but the flames to light our pages, and I think we layed there all winter.

As if it was her way of teaching me that anything was possible in life, all winter, we read books in front of the fire.

No, I don’t think I read because she surrounded me with books or encouraged me to read. While that may have helped with my development, meaning that I can read now (as many are able to do). I think I enjoy reading because of the memories I have of her reading — that peace, that quiet.

I read, because I grew up seeing her read. Eventually carrying my book under my arm like she did, traveling to the sofa, tossing my legs up, balancing our glasses of wine, grabbing whatever to cover our toes. And there we would sit, whatever house, whichever street, z-shaped legs, wonderfully, in the pleasure of each other’s company, in the pleasure of our own pages.

Quite simply: I read now because I saw her reading.

The Nian Monster: A Book Review

I’m very excited to have been sent The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang to review in celebration of Multicultural Children’s World Book Day 2017. Reading Culture fits well into their mission to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include children’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves and I’m thrilled to be promoting an organization that aligns so closely. You can find more information on them and other diverse books in the special links below. Continue reading

Reading culture: The power of the curator

Everyone has their elementary school survival story that they wear with honour. Mine was of a mixed-race girl growing up in an institution surrounded by white kids. I don’t remember much by way of specific moments, but I remember feelings. One feeling has followed me all the way to adulthood, and thus understanding: that the person who decided what books to put on the library bookshelves had an immeasurable power for a girl in my place. I say this because those bookshelves would help to shape an identity struggle that would last well into my 20s. Continue reading

The “Culture” in a Reading Culture

A reading culture is quite simply the creation of an environment that pushes for opportunities to read. It tends to be common sense in education (at least on paper) that developing a reading culture at home, in the classroom, in our libraries, is essential to life. Indeed, reading the greats (or the great whites) is one thing, but what is a reading culture nowadays if it doesn’t take you to a zone that you didn’t even know you could enter, that you didn’t know existed? What is a collection of children’s books worth if it doesn’t give young readers the means to travel to new lands, and maybe even through time?  In the age of the Internet, and protests it seems, this element of surprise is difficult to attain, but I can’t stop thinking that there is no greater opportunity than the one found in the purest of hearts and minds — our children. So let’s start there. Continue reading