Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

What a funny name for a month, “Get Caught Reading Month.” It actually strikes a chill in my heart, all the times I was discovered and yelled at for “having your nose in a book.” Working on the rural property or around the house were deemed more important than reading when I was a child, but I found time for books, no matter how I had to contrive it.

I got up early and made my bed, then slipped into the closet with my current book, and when my mom came up looking for me, it was clear to her I had already gone outside. I stayed in the closet reading whatever story I was devouring until after lunch that Saturday, then slipped outside and came in noisily through the back door, looking for lunch. “I was pulling weeds,” I said. “I was checking out the creek. Looking at the lambs. Picking blackberries.” Whatever I said, it covered me for the absent hours. Totally worth it.

I didn’t like getting caught reading—but I loved to read. I learned that you can read anything you want if you slip it into a different book’s jacket.

I learned that you can keep your finger in place where everyone else is reading aloud, and read ahead as far as you want, as long as you keep one ear pricked for your name, your turn to read aloud.

I learned you can hold a book on your lap under the desk and read at work, as long as you have a workbook, or a computer printout and a working screen in front of you.

I learned, the hard way, that when you buy books on vacation, you have to carry them the rest of the journey. I learned to wait to buy books until the last day. I learned to bring an extra duffel bag inside my suitcase, fill it full of my dirty laundry and soft items, and check it at the airport, leaving room in my larger suitcase for lovely, luscious books.

I learned that when you read books to your children, that they, in turn, read books. I learned that I can still cry reading the sad parts of novels that had scared or saddened me at first read.

I learned the words to many children’s books by heart and can still recite them to you, right now, if you like: “It is the end of a busy day. Mommies and daddies all over the meadow called their children in from play. ‘Time for bed, sleepyhead,’ they said.”

I learned that pizza is a good motivator for children who may or may not want to read, and that summer reading programs with a carnival at the end are the highlight of summer. I wish libraries had enough funds to bribe me to read with a personal pizza and the possibility of a goldfish in a plastic baggie, not that I need bribing. I like pizza and goldfish, is all.

I learned that if you challenge a child with a dollar per book read, that you might shell out $100 at the end of summer, and what an amazing debt that is to pay.

I have learned many lessons from my reading, and I could list a dozen more. But there’s no need. I read every day. I am not ashamed. I own my habit like I own this little scar on my brow and this streak of gray hair coming in. Books are a part of me, a world within a world, an escape hatch, a respite, a self-soother, an answer to a deep question, an inspiration, an instruction, a friend. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I cannot live without books,” and I do believe he was correct.

My life without books would be a sadder, much more dismal life. Get caught reading this month. You won’t regret it.

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