“There are worse crimes than burning books.
One of them is not reading them.”
There’s no certainty in life anymore. You can lose your job… just like that; you can be so stressed your heart starts beating much too fast or you can end up in fights even when you tried so hard to avoid having words.
But then… there’s your bookcase. That tall, sturdy oak piece of furniture that holds secrets, explains wars, teaches you a foreign language, helps you relax or take you to some imaginary world you wished you could live in.
I can sit in my living room, bedroom or any other place where I have books lying around and just look at those books. Enjoy their silence even when their characters scream for help. Just sit there and look forward to turning page by page by page, enjoy their scent of all things old or enjoy their fresh new pictures that smell of bookbinding materials.
“How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” whisper my history books.
“I will teach you some linguistic marvels if you have your Italian tongue present,” say my language books.
“I’ve taught you about Abnormal Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Counselling,” tell my psychology books.
“Keep me safe against the future in your bookcase,” whisper my old dictionaries.
All these books tell a story, but they also tell you what my story is. As a teenager, I started collecting old Bibles even though I wasn’t overly religious. The idea of collecting them made me wonder how many people had read parts of it, for what reason or if they loved it. I also started collecting old dictionaries to see how language moved on in time, and to learn about their etymology.
I don’t think anyone was surprised when I told them I wanted to work in a library after finishing high school. On the contrary, they expected me to do so because as a child, my family and friends saw me leaving for library visits more than a dozen times, saw me return with lots of books and saw me go to my bedroom with my arms full of words and stories only to return to the living room for lunch or dinner and then saw me head off again for a few hours of reading and learning.
During my library education, I was annoyed at the sterile way the instructors went about teaching about libraries, books and literature. My idea was to “get on with it now so I can work in a library instead of sitting here talking about working in a library.” My first day working in one couldn’t come fast enough, and I savoured every single second of it.
My books were my life, and they still are. They’ve taught me patience, insight and love. To care for people the way I do for my books, to hold them and cherish them.
The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the
man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.
I remember one certain lady who came into the library where I worked and asked me what she could do to improve her child’s spelling. Sure, you can guide them to language or spelling and grammar books, but what better way to teach a child to write properly by simply and merely letting them read?
My own need for proper spelling and linguistics stem from plenty of books I read because I didn’t just look at a book as a piece of printed paper, no… I would look at the spelling and the grammar of the words as well as read the story itself. I would like to praise myself on proper spelling because I’ve learned to do so by consuming and devouring stories. My sentences might sound a bit garbled but that’s because my native language is
My own need for proper spelling and linguistics stem from plenty of books I read because I didn’t just look at a book as a piece of printed paper, no… I would look at the spelling and the grammar of the words as well as read the story itself.
I hope I can praise myself for proper spelling because I’ve learned to do so by consuming and devouring stories. My sentences might sound a bit garbled but that’s because my native language is Dutch, followed by Flemish, English and French. I might use English grammar when writing Dutch or vice versa, but my words are spelt correctly. If I am unsure of a word, I simply open up the internet or a dictionary.
My Dutch teacher once asked me if I had any dictionaries at home, and when I replied I did, he asked me where the books were in my house. I said in the bookcase and by god, the man nearly ripped my head off!
“Books don’t belong in a bookcase when writing essays, they should… be… on… your… desk!!!” Oh wow, that made a huge impact on my future use of language and writing because me being me, I will not let myself be embarrassed like that again. So since then… yes, you can guess… my dictionaries were on my desk while studying!
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make
reading one of his deep and continuing needs is good for him.
Hence my adoration for dictionaries and other non-fiction books; when I worked in a library, my lunch breaks would always be spent in the non-fiction area of the library. Any topic would interest me, some days I could be reading about the Trojan War and another day I could be gazing at pictures of far away countries in travel guides. In my mind, I travelled the world and through the ages, space and ideas. Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book… of that, I am quite sure.
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013