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I read a lot, and I always have. I have been a “reading machine” this summer so far. Which is good. I want to. Sometimes I slack off on my reading, and then I find myself watching the dreaded television set. Horrors! I have always been a reader. I read most anything, or at least attempt to read it.

I know why I became a reader. It’s because of my father. I suppose if I had to describe my father while I was growing up I would say something like, “he worked, came home for dinner, then read.” Which is true. That’s about all he did. Once dinner was over, he headed to the family room and read till bedtime. He read tons of stuff. Everything. He would start with the newspaper and read it cover to cover. Ok, all of it but the sports section. Then he’d pick up a book and read. He was at the library all the time. He was never without a book. My brother and I could run circles around him, and he wouldn’t even notice us. I can remember just staring at him sometimes. I wondered what was so fascinating about that book, why would he pay attention to that, and not to anything else in the house?

We often times went to the library with my dad. I would pick out some lame little kids books. He would roll his eyes sometimes at my choices. This was when I was about second grade or so. One day he said something like, “why don’t you read something good like Little House on the Prairie or something?” I had no idea what that book was. So he took me over to the shelf and showed me this whole series of books. They looked big to me. But, I thought I should listen to him. I mean, I guess I was reading stupid books according to him. I brought it home and devoured it. Well, devoured it as quickly as a little kid can. My dad kept asking me if I liked it, and wanted to know what part I was on. We were talking. Carrying on a conversation. Guess what I learned? Read a book and you’ll get to talk with your dad. So, I read.

When I finished all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I asked for more. He directed me towards Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain and others. We would talk about each and every book. He had numerous books on his bookshelf, and I had decided at the tender age of 12 that I needed to give up my library books and start reading books off his shelf. I picked out one that looked short, it was called The Great Gatsby. I asked him if I could read it. He was a little hesitant just because I was a little young, but then he got all excited and wanted me to read it. I loved it. I felt like such an important and smart person. I started to read more stuff of his shelves – Hemingway, Austen, Faulkner, Bronte – anything I could get my hands on.

We had this amazing relationship revolving around books. I loved it so much, it was something no one else in the family had with him. Today we still talk about books – we talk rarely, but after we catch each other up on what’s happening in our lives, we have long pauses. Inevitably we start talking about what we’ve been reading. We compare, suggest, and make comments about our literary choices. Then we hang up.

I know why I started reading, but I know why I continue to do so. Not for him so much anymore. But for me. It’s become part of who I am and what I do. Books are many things for me, and one of those things is a connection to my dad. I think about him often when I pick up a book. I wonder if he’s read it, what his thoughts are on it, did he like it? We have very different tastes in literature, but we can appreciate a good book regardless. I wonder if he thinks of me when he grabs a book off the shelf? I wonder if he knows why I became a reader? I wonder…

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