As a child no older than four, I understood the soul-saving properties of the written word. We were desperately poor and my parents, paralyzed by their failures and dashed dreams, fought every night. My sister and I huddled in our small bedroom and—in an effort to block out their angry voices—she read to me.
I escaped from my family’s violence by disappearing into books. In the fictive world, I found role models. I discovered that there was a different kind of life out there and it was one that I wanted. I perceived—even among the ruins that defined my childhood—something my parents’ had long lost: hope.
My father died when I was six. His death propelled my mother into a quagmire of depression and anger from which she would never recover. She turned on her children, spewing hate, filling us with shame, and leaving both physical and mental scars. Still, I am loathe to blame her; she came from a long line of battered women, and I believe that the generational abuse culminated with her, exacting its greatest toll yet: a penchant toward child abuse. My lingering regret is that when my mother was at her best, she was brimming with intelligence, humor, and potential. But it wasn’t enough to save her.
Through it all—the curses, the name-calling, the belittlement, the beatings—I sought refuge and found it, time and again, in tales told by authors I would never meet but always love. Without books, I do not believe I would be alive today.
And that is why I am taking this opportunity as a guest blogger on Bridget’s site, to ask each of you to put books into the hands of children. I urge you to buy everything from picture books to young adult novels and donate them to your local domestic violence shelter. The children in shelter have witnessed unspeakable acts of terror committed by a parent they love. They bear guilt that they could not stop the violence and heal the battered parent. Notions of safety and happiness—notions many of us take for granted—are skewed in children who come from this background. We need to help them because, simply put, they deserve better. And it’s so easy. One of our daily mantras should be "Give a kid a book".
I am living proof that a child whose family is wracked with violence can find her way out of the darkness one word, one paragraph, one page, one book at a time.
Connie May Fowler, Author of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly
Disclosure: I did not receive any form of compensation for this post.