Can you remember when you were four years old?    Some of the children at Froggy Pad Day Care are four years old.  Some are younger.  Some are older.  Some need to be read to.  Others can read.    The postcards from Mr. Nobody are important to every single child.

I remember my fourth birthday  gift.   A school bag, red plaid edged in brown leather.  With a big strap to go round my neck.  With flapped pockets closed tight by shiny buckles.  With pockets where I  store treasures.   My Pinocchio book.  Pine cones I hold close to smell the forest.  A tiny pink stone.



My Mother reads to me.   From thick pages close printed with tiny letters.  From books  with dark covers smelling of  leather that captures and holds the flavours of the book.  These books have no pictures.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”  Her voice became David Copperfield.  The words tumbled into my mind where I would turn them over not always understanding, not caring, simply lost in the joy of  hearing the words.

More than anything else I wanted to read those books.  Thick, fat books without pictures.   Books with  close square  print holding secret stories.

“When can I read?”

“When you are six.  When you go to school”

“But I will be old when I’m six.  With white hair”.

I am six.  I go to  Cottage School.  Two rooms, one up one down.    The school smells of  wooden desks deep carved with initials.  The desks have circular openings that hold bottled ink.  Mine is empty.  I am not old enough to use a pen.  I write with a thick, broad, flat pencil.    The black boards are gray with old chalk.  There’s a map of the world so enormous it covers an entire wall.   I am going to learn to read.   I am given a book  words worn thin by countless eyes.  DICK AND JANE.


I am six.  I am furious.

I tell my mother “I am NEVER going back to school.   Nobody says “Look  Jane look, look.  See Dick.  see see, see Dick” .  That’s not a real book! Where are the words from The Old Curiosity Shop,   Oliver Twist? The words from Gulliver’s Travels and A Christmas Carol?  Where are the words from your books?”


I am more than six.  I am a compulsive reader.  I read the backs of cereal boxes at the breakfast table.  The fine print in advertisements standing in line at the grocery store.  I cannot pass a bookstore even  when the books are in another language.  My silver memory box holds library cards from Edinburgh,  Amsterdam, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver.  My oldest card, dated 1941, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan,  the place where it all began.

This holding a book in my hands.  The feel of the pages.  The smell of the ink.

This cadence of the prose.

This losing of one’s self to another place and time.

This reading of the beautifully written words.

This utter delight of being able to live a thousand lives.

I read in order to live.

26 thoughts on “I READ TO LIVE

  1. I wanted to say something profound, but alas I am so tired that the muddled words could not form a comprehensible thought.

    Then I found this: “I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
    In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
    ― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

    ……..this is what I would have said if the poor rusty mind of the Tin Man was better oiled. I just loved your post and found myself running through the pages of books gone by. Lovely words Virginia.

    • I found a silver oil can. It has the power to let you fly away with your thoughts … untroubled, calm with bits and pieces of happiness sticking all over you. You know oil, Tin Man. It gets everywhere. Spreading itself to quiet troubled waters. What is going on with Tinny on this September Saturday?
      XXXOOO V.

  2. SO DO I!! I only buy handbags that will fit a book! Never am i without one. my mother in law is the same it is our greatest pleasure this talking about books. Today was her to a T. I came in from the chores and she was lying on my couch reading her book. It was too quiet at my place, she said. She took a sip of my/her wine and turned a page. You can have this one next, she said. You will like it. Then all was silent again.. I am genuinely mystified by people who do not read.. c

    • A glass of wine and a good book – what could be more perfect. I no longer read under the dining room table. My favorite place as a child. I could keep an eye on the comings and goings, but no one would bother me hidden under the table with my books. It was suggested I not bring it to the dinner table or read under the bed covers with a flash light. I just finished Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up the Ghost. It started me thinking about my experiences as a child obsessed with books – hence the blog. Read on.

  3. Love this, Virginia, and can definitely relate…here is another great quote from the famous Dr. Seuss: “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!” I just posted this on fb earlier today, so great minds think alike! 🙂 Lovely post! ♥

    • Now I have great affection for the Dick and Jane books. But for a long time I loathed the very sight of them. But they did teach me to read (kicking and screaming) and what would I do without books in my life Lauren. XX Virginia

    • At various times in our lives we go through different phases. Sometimes their simply isn’t any time left to read. Then a book catches your interest and you can’t wait to return to it, and the habit of reading begins again. Do you have a favorite book?? Spill the beans. Tell all. Cheers Virginia

    • It is the absolutely best thing in the world – to have someone read to you. Through the long cold winter nights my Mother read adult books to us. To this day all of my siblings are mad for books. XX Virginia

    • It is the Mother’s who shape our lives, influence our choices, and give us the opportunity to be. My Mother was a wonderful story teller. We would be up at our cottage – with various nieces and nephews, grandchildren and grown-up children, and she would spin tales long into the night. Sometimes she would dress-up in a cobbled together costume – to look like a gypsy fortunate teller – and tell our fortunes. We loved it. XX OO Virginia

  4. You pulled me in from the start with your short sentences that set the pace that led to real reading. You were lucky to have had a mother who read to you early – I can see your disappointment with Dick and Jane! That explains your love of books. I love books and reading too and cannot imagine life without reading. I read in bed every night until my old eyes are tired and I am sleepy. I have passed on my love of books to my two children and grandson and read to them and bought books for them. The still get a book for Christmas! A lovely post.

      • Sooo many books! Sooo little time! The Man Booker, The Orange, The Govern General Award, the Pulitzer – back and forth I go, reading not just the winners but the short list and the long list. Fine literature that captures bits of you and leaves them between the pages (thank you Tinny for bits of that quote). Then my other love – really really good detective novels. I started reading Stieg Larrson when I was living in Amsterdam. The Dutch are mad for reading and there were fabulous English bookstores everywhere. I was as excited as any groupy when I attended a reading by P.J. James. Put some book lovers into a room and the talking and excitement would never stop. XX Virginia 00

  5. Oh I totally agree with you about Dick and Jane. I could read when I was four and going to school was quite a disappointment. I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about what Dick was wearing or what Spot was doing…I wanted to get to the story! My mother read to me even after I could read on my own and that was a special time where we rode in covered wagons with Laura or got into mischief with Anne…we still spend time talking about books even now. A reader is never alone or without comfort 🙂

    • Amber I STILL love being read to. Poor Dick and Jane. Getting such bad press from people like us. Thank goodness they retired that dated type of books from the school system. Years ago a dear friend of mine was very ill in hospital. I took my favorite childhood book GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR – and read it to her. She still talks about how it got her through a difficult time. Virginia

    • Some of the books belong to my Mother, many I discover as I troll through dusty used book stores. I love the look, the feel and the smell of old books. I especially like discovering books with names and messages written on the fly leaf in elegant copperplate handwriting. Virginia

  6. What a heartwarming post on reading and books! I can completely relate to this one, especially the feel of holding books, the look and feel of pages, smelling the ink, the imagination library created in our minds while reading and above all, the love for books, oh yes! I read to live too 🙂

    • There is a word for people like us – it’s a made up fun word and not in the dictionar – yet It’s ABILBLIOPHOBIA – fear of running out of books to read. Have a good week-end, Cheers Virginia

  7. Not for us any form electronic books. They have no soul. It was so lovely to hear from you and read about your very strong feelings for books. Do you have a favorite author? Books that you read more than once? In 2014 I read ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr. I didn’t want it to end and rationed the last few chapters. Three years later I reread the book and although I knew the story it was as fresh and delightful as the first time. Cheers Virginia

  8. All The Light We Cannot See was part of our book group reading about a year back. I was traveling back then and am yet to read that book, thanks for reminding me about reading this one. The fact that you reread inspired me to go grab and read it. I wish to reread The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because I couldn’t put it down and finished that in two days while I was reading it 🙂 Am glad we share such love for books. Cheers and Happy Reading 🙂 Sayori

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