HAMBURG — It was so refreshing to drive through Hamburg early last week, while schools were closed, and see kids’ spending time outside, running through the snow, playing together and enjoying the great outdoors.
I was glad that these kids had chosen to turn off the TV and video game console and go outside, to breathe in fresh air and get a little exercise.
A lot of young – and not so young – people I know took advantage of the free time to veg out in front of the electronic center of our universe. While I can’t really blame them, I am thankful for parents, teachers and leaders – like first ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama – who encourage kids to do more wholesome things such as go to the park, exercise their creativity and delve into a good book.
I credit my mother with instilling in me a love of reading at a very young age. While my younger siblings napped, she led me through worlds full of magic and imagination. By the time I could read on my own, I had met all of the little women, explored a very secret garden with little Mary, mourned with sad princess Sara Crewe and laughed with the likes of Anne of Green Gables and the boxcar children.
I could not understand my friends who did not enjoy reading. I found that books were an escape of sorts. I could be anything I wanted to be and go anywhere I chose, by just opening up the pages of a book.
I often closed the cover of a great read, blinking in surprise to discover that I was not in some far-off world, but still grounded in Western New York. Reading made me forget myself; it allowed me to use my imagination and it let me dream.
As a small child, I joined my mother and my siblings in – if we had been good – walking to the Boston Free Library. Miss Laura always had a smile on her face, and she did not mind answering questions and checking out book after book for us, regardless of how many times we returned to the local establishment.
That library saw me graduate from reading picture books to delving into series like “Nancy Drew” and “Trixie Belden.” I jumped at the chance to read, and I took my books everywhere: on road trips, in the bath, on the swing, under the tree and to the beach.
After my family moved to the Springville area, I met the wonderful staff members at the Hulbert Library in Concord. After years spent perusing the shelves of books just waiting to be read, I volunteered at the library for a summer and saw children’s eyes light up when I read to them the tales of princesses, dragons and knights.
Last week, I stepped into the Hamburg Library again – a wonderful local gem that I am still getting to know – and breathed in the atmosphere. I walked out, arms full, happy to know that my immediate future was full of adventure and mystery.
I truly consider books to be great friends. There are many works that I could never part with. Books have made me laugh and cry, and “forced” me to read many beautiful quotes with my long-suffering family members and friends.
I have smiled with delight at movie adaptations that got it right, and sighed in despair at those that didn’t. As a purist when it comes to those things, I have found that movies rarely made up for the imaginary worlds I had created in my head, when I was reading a delightful book.
Those who do not make reading a regular habit do not know what they are missing. Reading is not dull or monotonous; reading is delightful and magical, and can be enjoyed by anyone.
With a beautiful library right around the corner, and great staff members who love to give assistance, local people of all ages have a wealth of material right at their fingertips. And I encourage everyone to take advantage of that gold mine we call a library.
I give thanks for all of the people who led me through and encouraged me to explore the world of reading.
So go ahead and get back on the couch, but bring a good book with you. Just a warning, though: It could change your life.