All parents teach by example, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
I've done my fair share of unintentional parenting, but one thing I've done for sure is model a reader's life for my girls. They've both come along with me to libraries and bookstores since they were babies: borrowing, buying, and coveting titles. They live with me and my stacks--by my bedside, in my home office, my car, and on my desk. They've heard me say more than once "I need another bookcase." In addition, they've been my best helpers when I'm loading boxes of donated used books into my car to deliver to International Book Project for the next shipment for Ghana or Nigeria. Books, around here, aren't outdated or cumbersome. They are what we do.
So it's not surprising that they have developed their own reading habits, favorite authors and series, and have flourished in an environment where books are better than chocolate. And yet this week, for all three of us, something clicked.
On Sunday, we drove to Dallas for Half-Price Books' semi-annual book purge. (I don't know what they actually call it, but it was amazing.) A warehouse full of half-sorted books, piled on tables as far as the eye could see--all for under $1.00 each. We split up, each searching for gold. My older daughter stood paralyzed by the possibilities and had a hard time even starting. The younger dove in, finding complete series of middle grade paperbacks, shuffling books upon books, her elbows gently brushing those beside her in their shared quest for something brilliant. And I headed for fiction, then to anthologies, then to essays and poetry.
It was probably an hour before I noticed a man holding a sign high that read "End Of The Line,"and I realized that the entire warehouse was the line, snaking around in circles to the check out. We reconvened and shared our finds: 42 books for $25. We waited to check out, each of us reading to ourselves, and I looked around me. Everyone in the line stood quietly, reading. I nudged my girls, "look," and we all smiled. There was no frustration or anger in this queue: just reading people, grinning to themselves, books in hands. "Everybody's happy," my youngest said.
On Tuesday, Veronica Roth's third book in the Divergent Trilogy released, and Parker, my firstborn, did the research for her Wednesday night book signing in Dallas. Now, I've been to lots of book signings, but this one was a "wristband event." In order to get a copy of Allegiant signed by the super-talented 24-year-old Veronica Roth, the book, with wristband, must be purchased on Tuesday to secure a spot in Wednesday night's line.
I talked to an employee at the Barnes & Noble; he told me he expected 700 wristbands to go out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I drove my daughter and my best friend's daughter, Sunny, to Dallas for dinner and the signing. Then we waited, in a long quiet line of other readers. As our second queue of the week snaked through aisles of books, Parker looked up from quietly reading and looked around. "Book people are my favorite kind," she said. I couldn't help but agree.
On our exit, the manager told me that they'd distributed 1200 wristbands for the evening. I turned around and looked behind me at the crowded store: No, I decided. Books are not a dying art. No e-reader will ever replace this experience. Parker, clutching the book to her chest, kept repeating the phrase "This really is happening," as she smiled, all the way to the car.
So what changed this week, with me, with my daughters? We're all readers, focused on adding titles to our shelves. We're in it together, this reading thing. And as a writer, I'm inspired. The words are there, to be written, to be read. After the past few days, no one can convince me that paper books and brick and mortar bookstores are a dying art. As solitary as reading can be, I've got to agree with my girl. Book people are my favorite kind.