Empire of the Word, explore your love for reading

One of my favourite books from my early childhood.

Do you remember the first book you ever read and enjoyed? The first time the written words on the page jumped and ignited your imagination? Watch Empire of the Word on TVO and enjoy the journey which explores the act of reading.

Most people who are “readers” when they were young are readers for life. If you never really had the initial engagement with a book, that fire-trigger moment when the words became more than just words, reading is merely a chore and audiobooks are probably as close as you get to a book.

As one friend recently said to me about audiobooks:

“Why do I have to read when someone can read it to me?”

My eloquent response:

“ARRRRGHHHHHH!!!!”

I should say, for the record, I know some avid readers who love audiobooks because they spend a lot of time on the road or in transit. I can understand that but for others, I see audiobooks as cheating, it is not reading.

Even with advancement of digital downloads of books, people are still thankfully reading. The skill of reading is still intrinsic to everything we do in life. Besides the mechanical merits of it, it is the joy of reading which intrigues me.

Reading was always around me while growing up in an immigrant Italian family. People were either reading newspapers, doing crosswords, or reading magazines and tabloids…mind you they were all written in Italian. We had no Huckleberry Finn or Hardy Boys books readily available and we missed a lot of the so-called childhood classics others did read, even Dr. Seuss.

Every time I hold this book it reminds me of rainy summer afternoons and reading it on my veranda. This one was a hand-me-down from my cousin.

However, thanks to frequent trips to the Bloor Gladstone Public Library, an older cousin who loved to read and trips to an English language bookstore with my dad, around the time he was learning English, I started to discover books I loved.

One series written by Eric Wilson particularly gripped my imagination and never let go. The stories were about Tom Austen, a young boy detective who travelled about Canada solving mysteries and having adventures. In some books, he is joined by his sister Liz.

I credit these books with not just for firing up my imagination and helping me to start writing creatively but also for my love and curiosity of Canada.  Tom would have these great adventures in places like Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, Nelson, B.C., Ottawa and Newfoundland, let alone Toronto (Casa Loma!) and Quebec City. Once I was done reading a particular adventure, I would then hit an atlas and encyclopedia (remember these?) to learn more about that city and province.

Before reading Stephen King's Skeleton Crew, which opened horror to me in a whole new way, this was the first creepy book I would read on stormy nights.

Other key books which I loved and would reread while growing up were How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell, any Choose Your Own Adventure book, Kick Pass Run by Leonard Kessler  and Tales for the Midnight Hour by J.R. Stamper – these are books I still have, all torn and worn, dog-eared and ripped, with random scribbles in some margins, on my bookshelf.

If you have made it this far and to the end of this post, you must be a “reader” and I thank you. Do you remember your favourite childhood books or how your love for reading first took hold? What is it about reading you love?

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