Reading as a Shared Activity

Little White Cup Of Espresso Coffee, Opened Book, Blue Semi Transparent Vase With Purple Lilac Flowers On Rustic Wooden Table In The Garden At Spring Morning After Sunrise Or At Evening Before Sunset

My husband and daughter are reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury together. Both of them have always wanted to read it but have never gotten around to it. I read it in high school because my dad loved Faulkner and, because I loved and admired my dad, I would sometimes pick up whatever he was reading. I read it again in college.

I bring this up because in my book group this month, each person brought a list of 10 books they’re thankful for. I imagined that it would be a great way to add to my reading list but discovered that it was much more than that. As we shared our lists, everyone had a story to go along with the books they chose. In some cases, tears were involved.

One of my friends had the Outlander series on her list. She and her mom had been reading the books together. Her mom had leukemia, and the books gave them something outside the disease to talk about. She said her mom would look forward to their phone calls and discussions, staying ahead in her reading as she impatiently waited for her daughter to catch up. My friend’s mom died before she could finish the series, but the shared reading left a warm memory for my friend.

Another friend talked about the joy of sharing books with her mother. Another was influenced to read by her brother, which made her feel empowered as a young woman staying home with two small children. As a result of the influence of what she was reading, she started college and finished years later with a master’s degree.

All of us had memories of parents or grandparents reading to us or being influenced by siblings, parents or teachers in our choices of books. We talked about children’s books that we loved and how we read those same books to our children. I got my love for Southern Literature from my dad, while another member of our group was reading Isaac Asimov at age 12 because her dad read science fiction and then passed the books off to her when he finished.

I love to discuss books with my kids and have been doing it since they could talk. I have gotten some great book suggestions from them over the years. Conversations about books, even bad ones, are never disappointing. Books teach us; they can make us feel a sense of shared humanity; they entertain and inspire.

As I listened to everyone’s stories in my book group, I decided that I would re-read The Sound and the Fury with my husband and daughter. Who knows? Maybe 25 or 30 years from now she’ll be sitting around a table telling her book group how thankful she is that she could share reading with her parents.


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