Books and Wisdom | Teen Ink

Books and Wisdom

February 12, 2016
By Selena.zd SILVER, Wilmette, Illinois
Selena.zd SILVER, Wilmette, Illinois
5 articles 1 photo 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nothing is impossible if you allow the possibilities.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

I shoved my iPad to the side and picked up my book. Finally. Why did homework even exist? I barely had any time to read since... Well, forever ago. I only had a minute before the bell rings in each class to read everyday. I opened my book to the page I left off and tucked the bookmark into the last page of the book. But before I could even finish the first sentence, my mom's voice filled my room.

"Are you doing your homework, Selena?" Her voice echoed in the empty stairway. I closed my eyes briefly and sighed. I knew where this was going.

"No, I just finished a second ago," I called back. "I'm going to read for a while."

"What about piano?" She demanded, "Your next lesson is in three days and you can barely play the piece!" The two of us had very different definitions of "play." Mine was being able to get the right notes and rhythm while keeping both hands at the same pace. Hers was absolute perfection.

"I'll play in fifteen minutes," I said tiredly, knowing that I had already lost. It's the same every time. "Just fifteen minutes."

"No, you have to do the more important things first." She was getting annoyed. "Come downstairs right now!"
I sighed more loudly this time, knowing that she wouldn't be able to hear me anyway, and started toward the stairs. It's funny how my mom didn't give me any time to read anymore, considering that she was that one who started my love for reading. I leaned on the wall and thought back to my first memories of reading with my mom.


I was four at the time, and my mom would always read to me before bedtime. Usually, it's a children's picture book. And that day, the story was about a family of paper cats baking a piece of cloud into bread.  
"The oven sounded with a pleasant ding!  and the cloud bread was ready." My mom closed the book dramatically. "It's time for bed!"

"No!" I shouted. "I want to know what happens after they eat the bread!" I wasn't sure how clear my words were, but my mom understood what I wanted.

"Well, you can't always get what you want," she said softly. "Especially if you are relying on others." Sometimes she said things like that. At the time, I didn't know what it meant, only that I wanted her to keep reading the story. So I pulled off the blankets, sat up straighter, and reached for the book my mom had placed on the shelf.
"No, that's for tomorrow." She gently moved my hand away. "I'm turning off the lights in 30 seconds. Get ready." She went over to the corner of my room, turned on my nightlight, and put a few toys back to their proper place before coming back to my bedside to kiss me goodnight.

"Goodnight, honey." She pulled the cover over my shoulders and left the room.


I turned around to face the wall and closed my eyes, feeling frustrated. When sleep didn't come, I started to think about what Mom said. You can't always get what you want. Well, that part I've learned more than enough lessons for. The one that got me thinking was the second part of the sentence. Especially if you are relying on others. But I don't have to rely on someone else, do I? I could learn to read and go through the stories at a faster speed. That way, I can read more than one story per night. I fell asleep thinking, "That was probably one of the smartest ideas I've ever came up with that won't get me in trouble."

In a flash, the next night arrived. This time, while my mom read, I paid close attention to the characters on the page and tried to match them with the words coming out of her mouth. But  they looked like weird dots on the page with no pattern. When the story ended (the paper cat siblings, who were able to fly after eating the cloud bread, flew to Mr. Cat who was stuck in traffic and gave him a piece of bread, and saved him from being late to work), I was pretty sure I didn't remember any of the characters from the book.

"Selena, what's wrong?"

My annoyance must have showed on my face.

"Nothing," I muttered, not relying on anyone, right? I wasn't about to tell her about my defeat. "Good night, Mom," I said in what I hoped would be a brighter tone.

She frowned a little, but then shook her head the tiniest bit and replied, "sleep tight."

After Mom left my room, I pulled the covers over my head and tried to recall any of the words, anything, from the book. When I came up with a blank page, I peeked my head out of the blankets and stared at the ceiling. My house-shaped nightlight casted a warm yellow onto the walls. I couldn't help but think how much of a failure that was. Just then cars sped by my window, roaring with laugher, as if they agreed.

Suddenly, a voice chanted in my head, "think positively, think positively." Okay then, I told myself. Wasn't there a saying about how you can't freeze a lake in a day's time? My mom once said something along those lines when I couldn't get a piano song the first few times I tried it. Well, this was only the first day I was trying, so maybe after a while, my words will layer up and I'll be able to read. Comforted by my thoughts, I closed my eyes as sleepiness sank in.

Two month had gone by since that first night I tried to read. Every night after that one, I followed along carefully while Mom read. Now I could follow along the children's books pretty easily, only having to ask the meaning of a few characters. It was after another month that I begin to try to read by myself.

It was a warm and lazy afternoon, and I had gone back home from school only a few hours ago, finished my piano practice, and was bored to death. I wandered from the living room aimlessly to my bedroom, and plopped onto my bed. My eyes darted around the room, looking for something fun to do. They landed on the book my mom was reading to me the night before, about vegetables coming alive in a garden. It laid on the top of a horizontal stack of books on the shelves at the head my my bed. I picked it up, and started with the first page.
After reading the first line character after character, I reread out loud the sentence, connecting the words, and found that it actually made sense. (That book also had something to do with clouds. It was about a cloud boy who spied on human kids from the sky.) I read the characters slowly one by one, laughing when he that phones were something that humans ate. No words-- get it?-- could describe how happy and excited I was. I spent that entire day reading until bedtime, where I showed my mom what I could do-- the only thing that surprised me there was that she didn't seem at all surprised. There were only few character that I didn't know, and it was easy to figure of their meaning with context clues. That day and everyday after, I visited my books as often as I could, and by the turn of the year I became a very fast reader.

I also started to ask my mom to give me ten minutes of reading time before bed instead of her reading to me, since I found that I read so much faster to myself. I soon moved on to chapter books, then books a couple of grades above my level. And even though I never realized this before, I now know how lucky I am to have the mom I have.

She not only hooked me on to reading, which is my favorite thing to do at any time right now, but also taught me a lot about life. She often said really wise things to me on a daily bases, and somehow I followed those sayings without realizing it. Things like "you can't always get what you want" or "nothing good comes without hard work and time" or "alway do the more important things first" and "consider how others feel before acting" might sound simple, but few people actually are able to do them. Without my mom, I never would follow some principles as strongly as I do today, or appreciate books as much as I do now. I am thankful to her for bringing these bright spots into my life.


"Selena, piano, NOW!" As much as I love my mom, she still is annoying sometimes. I skipped down the stairs. She doesn't seem to get that even if I did read first, I would still have played piano. After all, following principles strongly and all, I wouldn't have left anything I needed to do undone. It was her that made me who I am.
As my fingers flew up and down the keys, my thoughts drifted from memory to music.

The author's comments:

Note: if anyone is confused about the "characters" I was talking about, I was born in China and Chinese was my first language. I learned how to read in Chinese first, and Chinese "letters" are called charaters. 

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This article has 2 comments.

on May. 31 2016 at 7:41 pm
Selena.zd SILVER, Wilmette, Illinois
5 articles 1 photo 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nothing is impossible if you allow the possibilities.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

I saw this comment just now after three months, but I wanted you to know that this means a lot to me. Thank you :)

Yunqi said...
on Feb. 18 2016 at 8:31 am
I'm proud of you, my girl!