I've always loved to read. There's a thrill down deep inside when you know you have a really good book waiting for you at the end of the day. My mind will wander to the plot and the last chapter I read throughout the day, and I find myself having to reel my brain back in and focus on whatever task I am performing at that given moment.
Since being in the Library Science class, Children's Literature, I picked this semester, chosen partly because it was a writing intense class (on my list for specific genres to choose from), and partly because I just love this genre, I have read more books I love than at any other time in my life. And that says a lot, since I read so many books when my daughter was growing up, I cannot even count them or remember them all. That being said, I do have a few that I have saved over the years in a very special armoire in the event my daughter wants them for her own children someday.
Many of the books I have chosen to read for this class this semester came to light out of the research I was obliged to do for the class, and most of them were picked from a reading list of either being on the NY Times Bestsellers' list or because they won particular literary awards. Educated, by Tara Westover, was one of those books. This one I read not for the class but because it was on the Bestsellers' list and the reviews intrigued me. This week, being spring break, allowed me some "my own choice" reading and along with working on a book, I am going through as many of these as possible.
Oftentimes, I have met other Christians who believe in reading only books by Christian authors, and would even go so far as to not even read fiction. Because I was raised with the freedom of choosing my own books, and teaching that challenging texts that broaden one's view is not a challenge to my faith but rather a way to strengthen it further, I read from all kinds of authors. I never liked the "romance" books, but loved the classics, which were a huge part of my daughter's education, utilizing The Well-Trained Mind - A Guide To Classical Education from which I designed her syllabus each year. As I began reading these winners of medals and esteemed places in the literary world, my mind and heart began to soar, just as it did when we would read great classic books years ago.
As I made my journey through Westover's book, Educated, I was taken back many times to my childhood growing up in a small mountain community, amidst the beauty of the mountains and the sometimes isolation I felt from what lay beyond its protective blanket. Though my family circumstances were nothing as tumultuous in comparison to this author's, little scenes from my memory were piqued as I read about her feelings of being an outsider within her own family because she left the security of the mountain and the only life she knew. Though her work at Cambridge set her apart as someone whose talent allowed her to bridge the gap within her family of choosing to stay uneducated (she did not see the inside of a classroom until she was 17) or break out and seek the education that she desired deep within, she had to work through the feeling she did not belong among the other students she found herself sharing close ties with. I immediately felt a connection with this author because I did not complete college "when I was supposed to," and did not fit the usual mold and would always see myself as a bit of an outsider in my educational journey. I have been fortunate, like the author, to meet many people along this journey who have stated to me, "education has nothing to do with age," more it is the desire and courage to be willing to face your fears because the decision to pursue your goals outweighs any fear that might stop you.
I read CS Lewis a lot, especially during my morning devotional time. He is both a man of deep Christian faith, as well as a very educated apologist. In the movie about his life, Shadowlands, one of his students makes a remark to him about our desire to read and reach out to the world beyond our four walls, stating, "we read to know we're not alone." I am so thankful I read beyond my most liked and comfortable genres. My God and his words are not threatened by that choice. I see his love and his workings within every sphere I find myself, and they are always undergirding my journey and reminding me we are all connected in this big ole world he made. I think it brings him joy when we reach beyond our borders to see others, through his eyes, and choose to follow them in their particular journeys. These pages into another person's soul help shape me into a vessel he can use to affect the lives of those I meet on my journey. Each book lays the groundwork toward connection and healing; sometimes it is me who is healed, sometimes it is another through me.