In honor of PeePaw–a true bibliophile

“I know from personal experience that readers lead richer lives, more lives, than those who don’t read.”
― Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

When my husband first brought me to meet his grandparents in 2007, I was obviously nervous. I knew how important PeePaw and Gran were to him, and I knew their opinion of me would matter greatly. But, the worries were unfounded, and we got along famously. They knew I was going to school to be an English teacher, and upon meeting PeePaw, we immediately launched into our list of favorite books ever, The Grapes of Wrath for him and Pride and Prejudice for me. We explored the classics and the contemporary. We extolled the joy in reading thrillers and memoirs and historical fiction. Happily, I had found a fellow bibliophile in PeePaw, and I knew I would always have someone to talk books with if I were to–one day–join this family. Books have been our love language ever since.

“Books are love letters (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”
― Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

When Joe and I moved into Gran and PeePaw’s old house in 2009, he couldn’t bring all of his books with him, so he left his giant library of books for me to enjoy. His only request, “Don’t just let them sit on the shelves. Read them.” And read them I have–some more than once. Because of his generous gift of books, I have had the great opportunity to learn more about myself. And more about him–a man with little formal education but so much knowledge and wisdom, an ever-present reminder that one does not have to have a degree in literature to fall in love with books.

When he received a Kindle as a gift, he was overjoyed at the one-click access to so many books. Already a voracious reader, PeePaw began to move through books even faster, selecting book after book after book. You might have even heard him enter into a debate with Aunt Kye over the validity of electronic reads being equal in superiority to paper books. He was vastly in favor of reading on the Kindle; Aunt Kye was definitely not–a fact he like to nettle regularly.

We’ve exchanged books and book recommendations so many times over the years, I have lost count. Our conversations usually begin with, “Read any good books lately?” Or, “Hey, I read the best book recently!”

Sadly, we lost our sweet PeePaw this week, and it has hit our family especially hard. He’s been a huge part of our lives, and his absence will be dearly felt. I will miss our book talks, but I am comforted by the many books we’ve been able to enjoy together. I will hold them closer to my heart so that I may revisit them when I am feeling sad. I will share them with others and pass them down to my book-loving kiddo. Don’t worry, PeePaw. I will not let them sit on the shelves. I will read them!

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Thanks to books, PeePaw and I have lived a thousand different lives, learned about a ton of different cultures and people, and traveled to various parts of the world we couldn’t physically see. But, more than that, books have given us a better understanding of each other. Books allowed us to see each other with different eyes, and they’ve given us a space to talk about difficult topics. This is why it is so important to help students fall in love with books! Reading gives them the capacity for compassion and understanding. It provides a better perspective of the world around them. And most importantly, it creates a space for critical conversations–a way to truly know the depths of the human condition.

I will be thankful every day that PeePaw and I have shared the love of books. It is that love that ensures he’ll never be further away than the turn of a page.

–Bridget

“Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters – the saints and the sinners, real or imagined – reading shows you how to be a better human being.”
― Donalyn Miller,The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader of Every Child

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