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Anne Horrigan Geary: Reading is remarkable

If your eyes are perusing this page, you are already aware of the wonders of reading; but allow me the privilege of trumpeting the theme for a few more minutes. Such a miracle is worth examining; let’s take a closer look at the abecedarium of words, strung together like precious pearls to create meaning.

People have always tried to communicate with their peers. From cavemen’s drawings to cuneiform, from smoke signals to semaphore, we need to tell others what we know. In our time, that transfer of information often takes place in the form of letters and words. Who can forget the dramatic scene in “The Miracle Worker” when Helen Keller learns the word for “water.”

For most of us, we learned to crack the word code in school. We each had an “a-ha” moment when those squiggly, black shapes began to tell us stories. How were we to know that this moment would change our lives forever? As a reading teacher, I have been privileged to witness this event many times, but the explosion of excitement never gets old.

My boys were read to before they were born and daily afterward. We only realized our three-year-old could read when he sat himself down on the sofa on Christmas Day and began reading one of his new books — which he had never seen before. From then on we couldn’t sate his appetite for reading. Stacks of books grew everywhere, and we all enjoyed the new adventures.

I remember my own early discovery. I had a big, red story book from which my Pop read me bedtime stories. Occasionally, he skipped a word or line, which I promptly filled in. Soon, I was reading him some of the stories, and because he had a long day at work, he often fell asleep on the bed. His gentle snoring was the clue that I could stop reading and close my eyes, too.

As an adult, books are my consolation and my entertainment. They are my teachers in every sense of the word. Discovering a new favorite author is like making a new friend. I just discovered Celeste Ng, author of “Little Fires Everywhere.” She weaves a compelling tale about families, especially mothers and children, which was easy reading but full of profound thoughts.

I still swallow detective fiction whole. Tomorrow, Archer Mayor’s new Joe Gunther novel is arriving, and I fully expect to stay up all night reading it. I like the feeling of plunging into another life and swimming in another person’s skin.

Recently, we went to a library book sale, the very best kind of sale. It’s like a monumental smorgasbord for the brain. For pennies on the dollar, we loaded up with pounds of bound treasure. With the cost of new books so high, book sales are more of a bargain than ever, plus supporting libraries is the best kind of charity. Everybody wins, and you can donate books back next year for an even bigger impact.

If books are treasure, then libraries are storehouses of treasure, filled to the brim with knowledge. I can still close my eyes and see the inside of the big, old Berkshire Athenaeum on Bank Row. It was my magic castle where I traveled every Saturday to fill my arms with as many books as I could carry. I know the new building is more efficient, but it will never replace its predecessor in my heart. I have a lovely watercolor print of the building set on a snowy day, and it seems like the warmth of the books and the cozy reading nooks would beckon to anyone in a storm.

Even though we are going to miss the hurricane, I plan to hunker down with my hard-bound lifesavers and read the day away.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.

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