The Great American Read, Part 5

2 min
at 11:43 PM

For some, reading and literature are just part of the environment growing up. For Terence Krista, it took a chance encounter to begin a lifelong love of the written word, as he explains in this Perspective, part of KQED’s collaboration with PBS on The Great American Read.

I can’t recall the reason why. Perhaps it was prominently displayed. Maybe it had an eye-catching cover. Whatever the reason, I checked out a book. This was a highly unlikely act as growing up, there were no books in my house, and consequently, no book readers. My parents had their daily paper and us kids had our comics. But other reading materials? None that I recall. I take that back. This was in the days of door-to-door salesmen and one had made a lucrative pitch to my parents. The proof? Shortly after his visit, a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica was delivered to our door. The hefty volumes ended up in a downstairs room next to the TV where they didn’t stand a chance. Fifty years later they remained in mint condition.

It’s now common knowledge the importance or being read to as a child, or for a young person to observe others reading for pleasure. Without those early, critical encounters, a love for words can face an uphill battle. I was proof. It was during a 9th grade English class when the extent of my illiterate state was made mortifyingly clear. During a session where students were asked to discuss their favorite titles, I could not name one.

Which brings me that checked-out book. By then I was a senior in high school and remained, for the most part, unread. But my chance encounter in the school library that day changed everything. The following days were a blur. On the bus, during school breaks, before sleep, I devoured "Red Sky at Morning," captivated by the lives of Josh and Marcia, Steenie and Chango. The small New Mexican town where they lived and attended high school became my second home as I listened in on their conversations and watched as they maneuvered the complexities and trials of teen-age life. I laughed, I cried and by the final page, was forever changed. Against the odds, I’d fallen head over heels for a book.

I’m eternally grateful to author Richard Bradford for proving great writing can transform even the most reluctant of readers.

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With a Perspective, I’m Terence Krista.

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Terence Krista is a retired librarian living in Richmond.

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