I first fell in love with books when I was 6 years old. My mother decided to read Charlotte’s Web to me every night before bed.
It was our little ritual, unfolding the story together, one chapter a night. I loved snuggling close to her, smelling her smell, looking at the black-and-white illustrations of Fern, Wilbur, Templeton, and the rest of the barnyard gang.
My tender heart broke when we finished the book, not because it was over but because of how it ended—with the death of Charlotte and the hatching of her children.
The day after we read that last chapter, the story’s bittersweet ending was still tugging on my soul. I remember sitting sideways in a green upholstered armchair, trying to hide my tears and tiny sobs.
My mom noticed. “Michelle, what’s the matter?” she asked.
I burst into tears right there on the green upholstery. Mom patiently waited for me to cry it out.
“What’s wrong?” she asked again, clearly bewildered and, by now, a little concerned.
All I could manage were the strangled words, “Charlotte died!“
My mom stuffed a laugh. She was probably relieved that I wasn’t crying over some bad thing that was “real.” But, oh, it was real to me. Charlotte was as real as any person I’d ever known. Her death happened. And it deeply affected me.
You’d think, after that, I’d be too traumatized to read a book ever again.
But nope. I was hooked.
Where can I get my hands on a book that will make me feel something like that again?
My next magical reading experience was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I devoured as much Dahl as I could get my hands on. The BFG. The Witches. Boy.
After that, I had a love affair with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It twisted me in its fantastical grip. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I kept checking the thick, pink-covered volume out of the library time after time.
There was no doubt about it. I had become a bonafide reader. Reading has instructed me in many ways, but it’s also given me hours upon hours of delight (and it still does).
Why does it?
Why do I like reading so much? Why do you?
The answer, I suppose, is because we’re irresistibly drawn to stories. Life is a story. We are all living a story right now at this very moment. Reading other people’s stories (true or made-up) helps me interpret the one I’m living day to day.
I don’t know about you, but I love seeing my life reflected in the stories I read.
I love seeing people from my own life populating the pages: my great-aunt Betty who lived through the Great Depression and washes and reuses every food container and bag from the grocery store. The unhinged-looking guy from the DMV with the wild hair who failed me on my first driving test. They show up in the books I read.
Most of all, I love seeing the person I want to be portrayed in stories.
Could I possibly have retained my optimism like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, even after everything good was taken away from me? Would I have the self-discipline to keep my own counsel (and others’ secrets) like Elena Dashwood? Would I stab Caesar with the other senators?
Stories make me grab my inner magnifying glass and examine my heart, but they also help reorient my gaze beyond the fine points. They guide my eyes upward to the heavens, the vast expanse of life that encompasses everyone who lives, has lived, and will live. Stories force me to ask supersized questions like, “Where is my place in this constellation of souls?” They invite me to grapple with these cosmic queries using both the reason of my mind and the feeling of my heart.
God, the Master Storyteller, has been weaving the story of humanity since time began. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story with pattern, foreshadowing, and fulfillment. I see my own small life reflected in its wide, shimmering pool. One star among the thousands Abraham saw. Like him, I’m a stranger here. Stories help me figure out where I belong and why I matter.
I love reading because, when I do it wisely and well, it points me to God.
It shows me a sliver of His infinity. It inspires compassion, gratitude, and virtue within me. It makes me treat others better, increases my focus, and fortifies my courage in the face of evil.
Why do you love reading? What was THE book that started it all? Leave a comment with your story. I’d sure love to know how it happened for you.