We learn by example, by listening, and by reading. That’s the truism I learned early on. It didn’t have to be drummed into my head, though. The statement was an affirmation of my personal experience.
Some of my earliest boyhood memories involve dad reading the headline stories of the “Omaha World Herald” newspaper in the morning before breakfast each day. He often read the paper more in depth after returning home from work. His habit was modified somewhat after I began a two-year stint as a paperboy for the “Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star”. Then again when my brother Mark did his one-year stint as a paperboy for the “Norfolk (NE) Daily News”.
Regardless of which daily paper dad read, he made a point of stopping at the neighborhood drug store to buy the “Sunday World Herald”. Dad got first dibs on the full-color comics section that served as the first portion of the Sunday editions of the paper. When he finished reading his favorite comics, he passed them on to me, then I passed them on to my siblings. Having the “Sunday Funnies” at the front of the paper was better than the clickbait of today. It was more like eating dessert first.
As I grew older, I began reading the Omaha paper section by section as dad finished each one. On weekdays, I saved the advise columns and comics until last, as a sort of reading dessert. I was hooked on Ann Landers and read her column religiously each day. Her sister’s column “Dear Abby” appeared in the “Lincoln Journal” so I read her words every day during my paperboy stint.
Both sides of the family included some avid readers. My maternal great-grandmother loved to read whatever she could get her hands on, she especially loved science fiction. She saved her old copies of science fiction magazines by stashing them in boxes for me. I enjoyed hearing her talk passionately about some of the best stories she had read but she never spoiled the endings for me. Great-grandma once told me she started reading science fiction when she was a middle-aged woman because there wasn’t much to do on the South Dakota farm for fun. The books and magazines allowed her to mentally leave the farmstead and explore fantastic worlds.
My paternal grandfather was a big reader, too. His living room was filled with old books and various magazines. He had a library card that he took advantage of each week. Grandpa J loved to read about every imaginable topic. Each time our family visited grandpa and grandma J, they left an array of reading material for me to enjoy.
The reading habit integrated itself deeply into my psyche. When I wasn’t getting into boyhood mischief, I had books to read. There were paperbacks I bought, and library books, galore. For awhile during my high school years, I belonged to the Book of the Month Club. One of the freebies to entice new members was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. The journalist’s account is probably largely responsible for my passion for anti-fascism. When I finished reading it, I went back to page one and read the book again. I kept the book as a sort of reference for many years.
The love of reading influenced my career choice. I knew early on that I wanted to work in media. Ideally as a newspaper reporter. I finally decided upon broadcasting because it offered a wide range of ways to read and write. In addition to disk jockying, I read plenty of news, weather, and sports for my audiences.
As if all that reading wasn’t enough, I haunted book stores and also used library cards prodigiously. Whenever my eyes became too tired to read, audiobooks came to the rescue. Why not have someone else read aloud to me?
Now, since retirement, I still read, but not nearly as much as before. I spend more time doing projects and tasks around the house. Yet there are many blogs to read and the public library beckons with new arrivals each month. Reading material seems to have geometrically increased in number. I wonder if I’ll ever satisfy my curiosity.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes mathematician, scientist, and philosopher, Rene Descartes. “The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.”