Passion Is Caught, Not Taught

My first memories of the written word are like shadows, bouncing from the light of a kerosene lantern as my mother reads. Her voice is full of meaning, emotion, and I am spellbound. Three, maybe four years old, I listen to The Hobbit, and I want to be there, in the pages of that book. I want to be on that great adventure with Bilbo and I want to smell the pungent smoke of Gandalf’s pipe. And in many ways I am there, as the scenes unfold in my mind, painted by my mother’s love of words and the book she holds in her hands.

Chapter after chapter rolls from her tongue, dialogue smooth. She never trips over a word, never hesitates. Slowly, after hours of reading, her voice becomes dry, cracked. Broken. She coughs, and says she’ll continue tomorrow. We beg her to continue. My older brother heats the kettle on the pot belly stove, waiting for the whistle so he can make her a cup of tea: black with lime and honey, just the way she likes it. We cajole. She humors us and continues. Slowly my eyes grow heavy, my mind blurred between story and dream. I drift away, elf songs ringing in my mind. Somehow I have become part of this story and I will never be the same.

My mother loves science fiction and fantasy, so my reading teeth are cut on the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Patricia McKillip, and Piers Anthony. I don’t understand much of what she reads at first, but I love the way words roll from her tongue. I love the inflection in her voice. I love that she loves what she’s reading.

And the idea dawns on me that I too, want to read. I want to do it on my own. I want to stand before her bookshelf and choose a thick tome with no pictures, and find a quiet place to curl up and discover mysteries in the written word.

“Mommy one day I’m going to read every book in this house,” I tell her.

And I do, several times over.

My passion for reading was caught, not taught. Can you remember when you first fell in love with books?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

3 Responses to Passion Is Caught, Not Taught

  1. Ally September 2, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    I was eight years old, browsing the shelves of the little library stuck between the post office and police station. She was ancient in my child's mind with her gray hair twisted in a bun and her sweater nearly to her knees. She spoke to me, listened to me, and then handed me a treasure. The first in the series of Boxcar children. I read that one, and nearly every other young adult book housed in those musty walls. She sparked a passion that remains even in this era of computerized librarians in shiny glass walled buildings.

  2. Heatherly September 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    I blogged about this yesterday, how funny!

    I fell in love with books in a house filled with books. I was in Kindergarten when I started reading simple books on my own. I haven’t stopped.

  3. Heatherly September 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    I blogged about this yesterday, how funny!

    I fell in love with books in a house filled with books. I was in Kindergarten when I started reading simple books on my own. I haven’t stopped. My mom and dad had bookcases full of fiction and history. My mom never hesitated to buy me stacks of books and herself read a novel a day- a habit I quickly picked up on; my dad’s love of history and trivia encouraged me to read non-fiction and read to learn.

    I am grateful for parents that knew how important reading is. They’re love of reading is the reason I’m now a teacher.

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