Mary Badham and Gregory Peck on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird. *
I had never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In the long hours of church—was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow—anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
— Scout Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I’m re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird—again, ha—and loving every minute of it. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I just love Scout. She’s a girl after my own heart with her scrappy, tomboyish ways, her intelligence, and especially her love of reading. I’ve no doubt that it’s to do with what I’ve read and learned from Proust and the Squid, but I’m only just now realizing how reading is nothing short of a miracle. For most of us, reading is so second nature, so instinctive. And yet it’s crazy to think back to a time when we actually had to be taught how to do it, when written words—and even letters—were foreign concepts to us, just funny squiggles on a page that only grown-ups knew how to decipher. Reading is such a huge part of my life now, that I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I never learned how to read. So much of who I am as a person is thanks to the books that raised me. They taught me about life, how to deal with difficult situations, what is right versus what is wrong. They challenged me to think, and led me into worlds and lives I would have never had access to otherwise. And they almost always came into my life exactly when I needed them. They still do.