Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)
TITLE: A Lifetime of Reading
By Brenda Shipman
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It all began with Dick and Jane, and Spot, of course. Amy fell in love with not only the characters in the books, but also with the pictures, the challenge of sounding out every word, and even the feel of the books in her little hands. An entire world opened up for her in that first grade classroom, where books quickly became her best friends.
“See Spot run. Run Spot, run,” was music to her hears, and Friday’s class trip to the school library was like a visit to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It didn’t take long before she started a habit that would continue for most of her life – toting home the library’s checkout limit on books with every visit.
Throughout elementary school, she eagerly awaited her favorite part of each day – after lunch, when the teacher would spend thirty minutes or so reading aloud to the class. She’d lay her head on her desk and let her mind travel to the places in the story, to the characters that became her friends or enemies, to the plot that lured her in and often left her breathless with suspense. What a letdown when the teacher closed the book and told the children to get out a textbook. She could think of nothing more boring than a textbook, after feasting on such rich bookish delight.
High school found Amy enjoying English and Literature classes the most, and still making regular trips to the city library for stacks of treasure. She went on to college, secured a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and got a job teaching first grade back in her hometown.
Amy loved teaching the children how to read more than anything else, and it seemed so natural when she pulled out Charlotte’s Web after lunch that first day of school, and settled in to read aloud to her class. What joy to see the eagerness on their faces, their eyes wide with wonder, and giggling at all the funny parts of the story. She was a big person reading to little people, and yet a book wondrously bound them together.
The young woman married, continued teaching, and then was delighted when she and her husband discovered they were expecting their first child. Amy began reading aloud to their baby while it was still in the womb – Bible stories, the Psalms, poetry, silly stories, classic books … she wanted her child to love words even before he drew his first breath. And the boy did; and so did the little girl that followed seventeen months later.
Amy took her children to the library nearly every week throughout their childhood, teaching them to choose books that, as Ruth Sawyer said, “… make for wonder. Stories that make for laughter. Stories that stir one within with an understanding of the true nature of courage, of love, of beauty. Stories that make one tingle with high adventure, with daring, with grim determination, with the capacity of seeing danger through to the end. Stories that bring our minds to kneel in reverence; stories that show the tenderness of true mercy, the strength of loyalty, the unmawkish respect for what is good.”
Amy’s children became book lovers. And that made her happy.
The boy and girl grew up, married and began having children of their own. The grandchildren would visit Amy and her husband often, and of course, Grandma would bring out the books after lunchtime, introducing another generation to the wonderful world of words.
One very sad day Amy’s husband passed away, and for the first time in her life, she was alone. She spent most of her time studying her Bible, writing in her journal, puttering in her garden, walking her dog along the country roads around her house, and reading. She’d read on the back patio, pausing occasionally to look up at the beautiful mountains behind her house. She’d read on the couch in the mornings, with her cup of coffee and favorite quilt. She’d read on the loveseat by the office window in the afternoons, soaking up the sun and eventually dozing into a luxurious nap.
Years passed. One afternoon Amy’s daughter and grandchildren found the old woman lying on the loveseat, a book spread open across her chest. She was gone.
Her grandson picked up the book and through his tears said, “Grandma loved books, didn’t she, Mom?”
“She did, son. She really did.”
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