Fifth grade, Mrs. Erickson’s class in one of many brown, nondescript trailers backed against the recess fields. Inside, warm Carolina sunlight pours through the windows over the beanbag corner where I read quietly with another girl who is even more determinedly into her book than I am. Days go by–this becomes a pattern. We’re talking about what we read before too long and soon we’re sharing sunbeams, even reading the same books.
Reading—bringing people together as long as there’s been stuff to read.
It was the beginning of a friendship that, so many years later (and so many miles between us), is still resplendent with the words we read, the fandoms we share, the nerderies that we’ve had going strong since 10-year-old us sat talking about just how kickass and rad Alanna of Trebond was and how we’d fare in that world of knights and magic and Prince Jonathans. Thanks to parents who allowed us the time, space, and even rewards to read, to programs like Book It and shows like Reading Rainbow, and to amazing human beings like Mrs. Erickson who suggested writers like Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley in the first place, Nikki and I are to this day enriched by the books that have let us lead so many lives besides our own.
March is National Reading month and while it’s already yearning towards April, the message is still strong: reading is important. Books are bridges to places where we see others like us being strong, being weak, being real or not even remotely real. Books, while ever-changing in format and in the vast array of subjects and genres now available, still let us know others’ minds and lives and worlds if only for a time. Books bring us together. Book clubs, forums and reviews, fan art and fanfiction, and of course libraries create communities that would not otherwise exist. Would Nikki and I still be friends without the books we shared? Sure as hell we would. But that friendship has been made even richer by our shared loves, our at times differing opinions, our common ground in many maps of many worlds.
Never forget how much of a gift reading can be. Never take for granted how connected we can be to others who have gone before, to others who live in places where we will never walk, to others who have never even existed but whose plights can give us strength and courage. Never forget how much reading can bring us together. So, what are you reading? Do any of you out there have life-long booky bff’s?