Reading: the Gift that Keeps on Giving!

The year was 1955. I was ten years old, and it was the most important year of my life. My family and I were in the first full year of living in the small suburban town of Oradell, New Jersey. The house we lived in was a rental, built somewhere in the late 19th century.

Our first house

Our first house

It was so old that there were still remnants of the coal furnace formerly used to heat it, before the new oil-fired one was installed. We were privileged to have not only a porch, but a yard, as well—actually, three: front, side, and back. In the side yard were several trees, and among them was a pear tree, which would play an important part in my young life.

1. Delia

My first reading teacher, Mom (Lyle Perrone)

By age ten, I was already an habitual reader, having been introduced to literature by my mother when I was two. Back then, we lived in a federal housing project in Brooklyn. Mom would read to me as I sat on her lap in front of the picture window in the living room. I loved seeing the word pictures she painted as she read to me. Before long, I was reading for myself. My love affair with words has continued to the present.

Imagine my delight at finding that the Oradell Public Library was situated directly across the street from our new home. After obtaining a library card, I set a goal of reading as many books as I could—as quickly as possible—in order to receive the reward of a free ice cream cone for every ten books read that was offered as an inducement by the library.

Me, at age 10

Me, at age 10

I soon fabricated a makeshift “tree house,” which consisted of a seat made from several boards nailed to a low-hanging limb of that pear tree, along with “rungs” made of pieces of 2″ x 4″ wood, nailed every 12 inches, going up the trunk.

Each day, as long as it wasn’t raining, I climbed the several feet up the trunk necessary to reach my treehouse, carefully carrying one or more books with me. It’s there that I spent the majority of my time throughout the hot summer months. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were discovered and adopted as my new best friends. So engrossed in their adventures was I that I actually felt the cool waters of the Mississippi River when Huck and Tom went swimming. I passed notes in class, just as they did, and fell in love with Becky Thatcher. I saw her personified in every pigtailed, pre-teen girl I met. During the day, Edgar Allan Poe’s razor-edged prose filled my mind with its vivid imagery and haunted my dreams at night. Black Beauty was the horse I rode when none other was available.

All through that summer, I devoured pages of books as though they were peanuts or popcorn, until my mind was so filled with literary content that it could scarcely contain it all. I became a walking, talking encyclopedia, a veritable font of knowledge, regurgitating whatever I’d read to anyone who would listen—willingly or not. I was a small boy with a huge imagination—fueled by the force-fed subject matter of the countless books I devoured. By the end of that summer, I was hooked so hard on reading that nothing could break its grip. Writing was just a natural extension of that endeavor.

Still reading at age 71

Still reading at age 71

If you’ve got children of your own, or nieces or nephews, or grandchildren, introduce them to reading. Give them books as gifts. Read to them. Let them read to you, as well. You’ll be planting seeds that will grow throughout their lives, yielding fruit that will mature and ripen into nourishment for their minds and their souls. Reading is the ultimate adventure—a veritable magic carpet that can take us anywhere our heart desires.

And to think it all began in a treehouse in the side yard of a little rental house in suburban New Jersey. And I owe it all to my mother. Thanks, Mom, for the greatest gift you could ever have given me: a love of reading!

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About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of four books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at: http://www.joeperronejr.com.
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11 Responses to Reading: the Gift that Keeps on Giving!

  1. Mary says:

    What a rich childhood you had, Joe. Your Mom was priceless.

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  2. balroop2013 says:

    This nostalgic post is so refreshing Joe! Love those pictures you have shared of your childhood days and your mom’s pic is absolutely awesome! Thanks for sharing lovely memories of reading in the Pear tree…you were blessed! And I could visualise you!

    Nurturing the habit of reading is the best gift we can give as parents and grandparents. My home was full of books as I was told that an infant can understand and relate to the pictures in the book we read to them. So I started reading to my kids as soon as my girls could sit with support and I am glad I have given them this invaluable gift, which is being doubly passed on to my grandchildren now! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Balroop. Why am I not surprised that you were encouraged to read as a child?
      It only follows that you paid it forward with your own children, who are continuing in your footsteps. Ain’t life grand? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sure enjoyed your post, Joe. Lucky for me Mom gave me that priceless gift too! One we have the delight of passing on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bruce says:

    I arrived in Oradell in 1956, and also loved to read, supported by my mom and my dad. They supplied all of the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift Junior series books. At twelve, I began my lifelong passion for science fiction, and hope to finish my own book soon. My dad enrolled me in the Science Fiction Book Club, and I feasted on the classics by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and others. I remember your house, as it was next to the old Rexall Drug Store. My mom took me there after my library adventures and I enjoyed milk shakes at its old marble counter. My wife has instilled this love of reading in our granddaughter, and she has the same attitude that you described, and can’t wait to tell us what interesting things she has read about. Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One can obtain an education second to none with a library card and a stack of books obtained by using that card. You are so right about reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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