Whether it is brand-new and still smells as good as freshly cut grass or a leaf plucked from a tree, or whether it is old with a musty smell of wear-and-tear, I love books. I dream of rooms filled with books, stacked to the very top. A kaleidoscope of colours that each tells a different story!
I discovered books when I was very young. My mother always tells the story of how she would lose me in the mall and find me looking at books. I still get distracted by books and book stores. When I was about two, many people thought I could read as I sat reading children’s stories out loud, but I just memorised the entire story as my mother read it to me.
Books were wonderful as they taught you about worlds that you would never have known or seen. Books taught me about hardships, relationships and friendships (all the ships). Most importantly, books taught me to imagine, to see another world in my mind.
Of course, this often led to me daydreaming in class rather than listening to the teacher, but I now have the ability to dream up stories as well as new ideas, and to visualise something before I make it. The talent to dream up stories is especially precious to me as I can dream up stories for my children one day.
When I was little, my father would tell elaborate stories of adventures, monsters that live in Table Mountain and a sailor with a golden tooth. I will be able to do the same for my children. Not all parents are able to do that. What is even sadder is that many children in South Africa will never have the wild adventures I had through books.
Most will never know the joys of a factory filled with chocolate or having mind-controlling powers. They will never dream of climbing through a closet into another world, eating treats that make you grow very big or a school where you learn to be a wizard. It breaks my heart that many children will never be able to read about the Biafra war in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half a Yellow Sun.
They will never learn about a girl that disappeared into the walls of a house in Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching or the world of Harry Potter. This week was National Book Week and today is International Literacy Day. What better time than to give someone else the gift of imagination by donating a book. I hope you do. If not, at least just read a few pages of your favourite novel (or any really) to remind yourself of the beauty of books.