Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why I Love to Read

By Kay Kendall

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love to lose myself in books. Reading is so much a part of me that I take it for granted—like breathing, sleeping, eating.

If you take something for granted, then you usually never stop to question why you are doing that activity. Certainly that was true for me and my passion for books for the longest time. Lately, however, I’ve wondered why I developed this habit of avid reading. Why books and not something else? And to say merely that I ENJOY books and that’s why I read begs the question.
Then the question becomes this instead: Why do I enjoy reading?
Some people have calm, placid minds. I do not. My mind hops around from subject to subject, questioning what it notices, absorbing everything and wanting to learn more. When nothing is going on around me, then I spin stories. This also was true for me as long as I can remember.
I was an only child and had to run outside to find playmates. As a member of the baby boom generation, I had plenty of other children nearby and was fortunate in that regard. However, when I was forced to take an hour-long nap every afternoon during the summer, I never slept. I was always so bored and entertained myself making up stories to while away the time.
Compared with diversions available to children these days, I didn’t have many. My home lacked a television set until I was eight years old. However, there were plenty of books. My parents read constantly and gave me books to read. I suppose my mother must have read to me initially, but I must confess that I can’t recall back that far. Both sets of my grandparents gave me books, but as to which came first, those gifts or being given books because I showed interest in them, I cannot say. The Carnegie Library was my home away from home.
What I do recall is escaping into other worlds when I read. I consumed books like candy. I was hungry for escape and entertainment and learning. I have always loved learning new things—mostly about people, not so much about science and technical things. I wanted to learn about all the people in the world and how they differed and what made them so.
My Kansas hometown of 12,000 people was too small for me. I wanted to learn about the whole wide world. By default, Dallas, Texas, became my mecca as we motored there several times a year to see my paternal grandparents. They were also keen readers. Perhaps reading was a part of my DNA. My Texas grandparents kept every issue of The National Geographic that entered their home over the course of many decades, and their set of Harvard Classics lives today in my own living room.
Some of my childhood friends still love to read too, but others never did and don’t now. This difference puzzled me for some time, but these days, when I look at next-door neighbors and see how little the parents read, I surmise that their children won’t become readers either. I don’t see magazines or books in their home, and I’ve been going over there for more than a decade, so I should know. The two children appear to read only when they’re doing their homework or playing games on iPods. They get lost in their digital world the way I used to get lost in my literary one and still do.
Maybe that is the reason for the big difference right there. What your parents do informs who you are. For example, my son and his wife (an English major in college and now a technical editor) are raising my two grandchildren in a home stuffed with books. My daughter-in-law read to their first child almost from the moment he was born. He taught himself to read by the age of four and now at age seven tears through at least three books a week. To protect the family budget, an E-reader was purchased in order to keep the costs down of supplying my grandson with books to read. His online wish list always holds at least twenty books.
In the end, I am not sure I have answered my own question—why I love to read—but I am sure of one thing. This love of mine has already gone on to the next two generations. And I am content.
(In my next piece on the Stiletto Gang blog, I will consider why “experts say” reading is good for us.)
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7--the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The audio-book will be out soon.


  1. Love reading, have always loved reading since I was a kid. Have give books to grand and greatgrand kids. My almost 3 year old great grand, keeps the books I've give her separate from her others. She also loves to "read" her books--of course she's memorized what they say, but it's sure fun to watch and listen to her do it.

    1. That's wonderful, Marilyn. I used to let my son keep the light on if he were reading in bed. It was always a treat. That worked. He reads such serious books now that he amazes me.

  2. Nice article, Kay. Made me think about when I began an eager reader, and why. Can't wait to read your next article.

  3. That "began" should have been "became".

  4. Thanks, Marjorie. As a daily reader of the New York Times, I've been amazed at the continual drip drip of articles recently published therein that tout the advantages of reading. Sadly, I feel as if this is becoming a rearguard action. The benefits mentioned are ones that probably would not move me to read if I didn't love to already...kind of on the line your spinach--it's good for you.

  5. I feel the same way about books and reading. Our grandchildren know me as the reading grandmother because I always arrive with books or detour to a bookstore