A Lifetime Love Of Reading

By: Krystal Keagle

Me holding one of my all-time favorite book, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Photo Supplied.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enamored by stories — especially books.

In kindergarten, my favorite part of the day was story time. My classmates and I would sit in a carpeted area of the classroom as our teacher pulled out a new book every day to read to us. I sat close to the front every time, hanging on every word as the teacher read “Rainbow Fish” or “The Poky Little Puppy.”

My dad says that I took to reading “like a fish to water.” I was obsessed with reading everything I could get my hands on, especially books, magazines and newspapers. Reading was perfect for my overactive imagination; I could picture characters and scenes in my mind that were better than any TV show or movie.

In elementary school, I often checked out two or three books when my class went to the school library each week. I loved the choose-your-own-adventure books and loved exploring every storyline that you could take. Every story I read was a new adventure and I loved each one.

Stories help us understand the world around us. As a kid, I had a lot of questions about the world and my place in it. Reading — especially books — became a form of escape. My parents were divorced. I was bullied by a couple of classmates in elementary and middle school. I dealt with depression as a pre-teen and teenager. It was comforting to dive into a book and suddenly be in a different world where all the things that hurt me didn’t exist.

Books also helped me connect with other people. Growing up in the ‘90s and ‘00s, I loved a lot of popular series like “The Babysitter’s Club and “Goosebumps.” It was easy to build a friendship with someone who liked the same books. To this day, some of the dearest friendships I cherish most were sparked by a shared love for the same books.

My best friend Lexi (left) and I have bonded over Harry Potter since we met when we were 12. Photo Supplied.

Like many other millennials, the series that captured my heart and imagination the most was “Harry Potter.” I was captivated from the first chapter I read and my obsession grew with every new book (and eventually the movies too). My dad took me to midnight release parties at Borders (R.I.P.) and Barnes & Noble for three of the last four books. I’ve since attended numerous Harry Potter events, joined a Potter-inspired running club and formed deep friendships with people because of our shared love of The Boy Who Lived.

Outside of school, I spent a lot of time at my local public libraries. In middle school and high school, I often went to the library on Saturdays to work on homework and find new books to read. Sometimes I would be at the library for an hour or so, while other times I was there almost until the library closed for the day. I always left every week with a stack of books to read.

Eventually, my love for stories and books fueled another passion of mine: writing. I wrote creative short stories and poetry in middle school and high school. In college, I studied mass communication and journalism so I could write stories for a living and I’m lucky to get to do that still today. I’ve met incredible, fascinating people and had the opportunity to share their stories in newspapers (including The Elkhart Truth), magazines and digital publications.

When I moved to Elkhart over a decade ago, one of the first things I did after updating my license was sign up for a library card at the Elkhart Public Library. I loved that there were multiple branches I could visit and that it was easy to request interlibrary loans from nearby libraries.

I also loved being able to use the Libby app to easily borrow eBooks on my iPad at any time day or night. I would often switch between eBooks and physical books, depending on what I felt like reading and what was available.

When my daughter Maya was born in 2022, I didn’t have as much free time for reading as I was used to. I started borrowing audiobooks through Libby, and that became the primary way I “read” books for my own pleasure for the first year of her life.

My daughter Maya reading one of her favorite books with her bunny. Photo Supplied.

While I do try to read adult books occasionally, nowadays most of my reading time is spent with Maya. She is the greatest joy of my life, and it’s so rewarding to be able to share my love for stories and books with her.

When Maya was born, we received a gift bag at Elkhart General Hospital with information about the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program at EPL. And that, dear reader, brings us to why I’m writing this blog post.

This post is the first of my series documenting our family’s journey of reading 1,000 books with Maya before she starts kindergarten in 2027 (I’m so glad that seems far away right now!). Imagining reading that many books is a little daunting but honestly, mostly exciting. I’m especially thrilled to be able to share our experience with our community through the Elkhart Public Library.

Maya is 2 years old and reading is a big part of our daily routines already. In my next blog, I’ll share more about how we’ve approached reading since she was born and talk about our plan for tackling the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your child’s favorite books from toddlerhood. Share your favorite on the Elkhart Public Library’s Facebook page. We need all the recommendations we can get for 1,000 books!