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Liz Ciancone

March 15, 2011

MS. TAKES: Reading produced lifetime of happiness

TERRE HAUTE — I ran across a bit in my reading which said, “To be conscious of happiness in life is rare. Generally we perceive it in retrospect.”

I’m not sure I agree. If we were unaware of that happiness at the time, we would not have filed it in our memory bank for later retrieval.

It did set me thinking about the joys I have received from reading. Grandma used to spend Sunday mornings reading the funnies to me and Ed while Mom fixed Sunday dinner. I could hardly wait to get to school so that I could read the funnies myself. I had learned to recognize certain words, but I had to wait for first grade before I had formal instruction.

Naturally, I wanted to show off this new skill for Ed, so I took my books home and read the stories to him. I nearly screwed up his education — not because he was dumb, but because he was smart. When he started first grade the next year, he was breezing through the first readers. Although Miss Meeker didn’t believe it possible, Mom insisted that he had memorized the stories I had read to him. When he was given a book I had not had, he couldn’t read a word.

It was years before Ed learned to read easily and he never found the joy in reading that I have.

I remember the happiness I felt when I was first allowed to check books out of the adult section at the Yorkville library.

Mom suggested I start with Mary Roberts Rinehart’s book, “The Circular Staircase.” It was a mystery thriller and I felt I had arrived at adulthood.

Since the Yorkville library was open only a few hours on Saturdays, I would get there when the library opened, load up on books and read all day hoping to take a bunch of books back and get more. My stock rarely lasted through the week, so Mom began screening magazines for suitable reading. She introduced me to Jeeves and Bertie Wooster carried as serials in The Saturday Evening Post. I still own many of the author’s books and they still bring a laugh.

Reading has been my happiness — both alive and in retrospect. I knew it at the time, and I know it still.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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