Refuge in Reading

3 April 2020

As covid-19 brings the world to a standstill, First Tutee is developing an interest in books because he spends more time at home these days.

Having zero access to television, limited exposure to social media, and supervised play, print media seems to appeal to him.

The other day he asked me why I gave away my collection of books by Roald Dahl and didn’t save any for him. I told him he wasn’t even born when I did that.

He was quiet for a while. Then he asked if I could let him know first before giving away any books from now on.

I pointed out that he hadn’t even started reading the book I got him from Nepal. It was called “Namastay.”

In “The Zoo Keeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman, there was a very disturbing account of nazi soldiers coming into a small zoo and shooting the animals one by one in their cages.

The zoo keeper’s wife, fearful for her own life as well, couldn’t do much to save the animals that she and her husband had lovingly tended to over the years.

As gun shots rang painfully outside their living quarters, the zoo keeper’s wife could only hold her young son close, and read to him to prevent him from asking questions about his animal friends being used for target practice.

This contrast of unspeakable violence by uniformed youth of supposedly superior stock against a mother reading to her child to protect him from life’s incomprehensible heartbreaks remains for me a very potent symbol of how at our most vulnerable moments, we seek refuge in words.

Perhaps First Tutee, and many children the world over will find life’s many unexplained questions in books as they wisely stay home to let the virus passover, while adults outside continue to bicker and blame like tempestuous toddlers.

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