Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reading Between The Lines

One of the blogs I follow is titled "Beauty in the Ordinary."  Since completing the Denver Writing Project I've been challenging myself to look at the world through this lens.  I've been trying to see the world through a "writer's eyes," to see something special, unique or distinct in the mundane.  Some days where I look for beauty I just see the ordinary -- people shuffling around disconnected, plugged in and tuned out.  But today I saw something truly beautiful.  Something I would call extraordinary.  Something that made me smile.  Something that as hundreds of students fill backpacks, pack lunches, and board buses this week in preparation for a new school year, gives me hope.

While ordering an iced coffee at the Barnes and Noble cafe, somewhere between swiping my bank card and pushing a straw through the top of my drink, my gaze fell upon an unlikely text-immersed trio: a father sat with his two sons, tucked away at a corner table, settled in and content, completely engaged with the written word.  The father was taking turns between scanning the content of his magazine and marveling at his two sons who looked to be between the ages of eight and twelve.  The younger of the two, brow furrowed, concentrated on his e-reader, oblivious to everything around him.  The older one sat, stooped shoulders and eyes lit up behind the cover of the latest Alex Rider installment, silently mouthing the words and moving his finger line by line down the page, radiating sheer pleasure at getting one sentence deeper into his paperback adventure world.  As the barista completed my order, the father made eye contact.  He must have read my face, a mixture between surprise, awe and delight, because he smiled widely, matching my grin, and looked from me, back to his sons, then to me again, his eyes silently affirming, "Yes, on this Sunday afternoon my sons choose to read."  

As I walked away from the scene and into the shelves of beckoning titles, I couldn't decide if the  human tableau should leave me feeling satisfied or sad.  Seeing  a father choose to read alongside his sons on a Sunday afternoon left me hopeful about the future of the printed word and the power that teachers and parents have to support and safeguard the next generation of readers.  But the fact that this scene caught me by surprise made me sad.  Why can't I remember the last time I saw engaged readers in action (especially outside the walls of a classroom)?  And why did this scene feel extraordinary when really, shouldn't parents and children reading side-by-side be among the most simple, routine and ordinary events we encounter? 


  1. This made me smile. I love spotting little moments like that. This father is instilling in his children a love for not only reading, but for creation, imagination, and their future. Absolutely beautiful moment. Just today, I looked up from my spot on the couch to see that my bedroom door was shut. I got up, intent on yelling at my son for shutting himself away in my room; something he knows he's not allowed to do. I opened the door to find him stretched out quietly, humming to himself, with the first Harry Potter book in his hands. He looked up at me and told me, "The TV was too loud, so I shut the door." All thought of punishment disappeared and my heart swelled. I went back into the living room, shut off the TV and grabbed my Kindle to join him in my room. I know exactly how that dad felt.

  2. So, so lovely to read this. I remember holing up in the basement in middle school with a stack of library books and my friends literally could not drag me out into the sun.

  3. I used to save my allowance to buy the next book in the Little House on the Prairie series. I don't remember the name of the bookstore, but I have an image of being in there permanently affixed in my brain. I'm surveying the scene of books upon books and shoppers, thinking, "Wow. This is a great place to be."

    The text people seem to be immersed in these days is that which appears on their phones. I am one of those people, yes, but thankfully, I am still part of a generation that had such exposure to the written books.

    It seems like some people equate "good parenting" with how many activities they schlep their kids to...the busier the kids are, the better the parents are. I wish that weren't so predominantly the case.

    Your blog post makes me want to go interview book sellers and ask about the changes they've seen over the past 5-10 years...