“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” ― Groucho Marx
When Mr. Crowley died, Nancy heard that his will might be found by something hidden in the old clock inside the home. How would she get to the clock, though? What followed for 209 more pages was the story of how Nancy gained access to the house and clock, and it included many adventures along the way. The Secret of the Old Clock was the first book in the Nancy Drew series and was one of many escapes for me during childhood through the plot of a good book. In the pages of my Nancy Drew books, I could leave everything I knew about being a kid and become Nancy’s detective helper. We had dogs who were great friends, indeed, but Groucho is correct that arming myself with a flashlight in the dark of a room, I found my other best friend — books.
My friend mentioned a book she wanted to read and commented that she hadn’t checked to see if it had been turned in at the library. “Gosh,” I exclaimed, “I haven’t been to the library in years. I don’t think I even have a valid card anymore.” A hundred steps and ten minutes later, we were standing at the desk of the local library. I became the proud owner of a new library card and put my name on a waiting list for a book. It was an exciting afternoon for me as I recalled my own childhood, as well as those of my children, when the public library was a home away from home. The library provided a way for me to travel the world through the pictures and words on the pages of the thousands of books occupying the shelves. When did I lose interest in that kind of adventure, I wondered.
It was 1997 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, and my sons were already hooked on the joys of reading. Our older son began reading the book every free minute he had, and the excitement of a next book and a movie kept the pages turning. (Without having read the book, we wouldn’t be seeing the movie.) It was a magical time of bookstores having release parties and every boy and girl seeming to take on the characteristics of their favorite Hogwarts’ house inhabitants. Our whole family enjoyed the lives held in those pages. When my sons left elementary school, they became busier, video games had become more popular, the internet held answers for our investigations, and trips to the library took a backseat.
I’ve never stopped reading, and I will encourage everyone to find a book that looks interesting and spend some time within the pages the author has spent time crafting for our pleasure or for our education. If you’ve not picked a book up in a while, there are really good reasons for setting aside a few minutes or a few hours to read every day. Maybe it will only be the last 15 minutes you are awake, but it will be a great choice.
- Reading can help you relax (reading at bedtime is not the only time we need to relax)
- Reading can help you develop empathy for people in different situations than you experience in your own life
- Reading provides you with things to talk about with other people (book clubs or just random conversations)
- Reading helps you build your vocabulary (I like to look up words I don’t understand)
- Reading a book with real pages actually helps you understand the information better
I know how it happened. I bought an electronic book reader that could house thousands of titles. Then I discovered that purchasing books was as easy as clicking the button that said, “Read it now,” and I could read bits and pieces of any number of books whenever I chose without having to return them to anyone. The cost slowly crept into our monthly expenses, but I felt able to justify the purchases of these items that would build my knowledge for a very long time. Embarrassed that I didn’t have a current library card, purchasing was easier than borrowing, or so I thought.
The library sent me an email to let me know the book I requested was available. With the excitement of a child, I nearly skipped through the doors, picked up the book, and scanned my card. I am now reading my first library book in more than 10 years. My friend, Will, told me about Libby, an online library for everyone with a library card. You should investigate for yourself. If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go back to the book, the smell, and feel of the pages and the ink, and remember this old friend known as the Public Library.