Thursday, February 25, 2010

Books From Back in the Day

Apparently before I could truly read, my parents would allow me to fool my grandparents by “reading” some of my little books aloud to them. In actuality I had memorized every word and where each turn of the page occurred. I know I was read to as a child and eager to have that independence of doing it myself. The stories I remember from when I was very young are the Little Golden Books--I always felt bad for the Pokey Little Puppy. And, like Ellen, I had a book of fairytales for which I remember the colorful illustrations almost as well as the stories--Cinderella, The Shoemaker and the Elves, Sleeping Beauty, and Rumpelstiltskin. Rapunzel was in a different book, I think, and I was fascinated by that tale as well. It’s fun to re-visit some of these as an adult by reading something like Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Dr. Seuss was always fun. (And fun in college when the first gift i gave my new boyfriend, now husband, was The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, since he was upset that I was going to a dance with someone else the night of his dorm’s Christmas party, to which he had forgotten to actually invite me.)

In elementary school, the poems of Shel Silverstein totally cracked me up. Then I read his book The Giving Tree as an adult and totally wept. I also read a lot of Beverly Cleary, The Beezus and Ramona books, and then many many Nancy Drew books--it takes about one second for my brain to pull up the images of titian hair, green sedans, “tomboy” George and “plump” Bess. I thought it was so cool when my older cousin gave me her ND books--they were old musty hardcovers with the black edging around the pages. The Secret in the Old Clock! The Hidden Staircase! And I remember everyone in my class loved the book Superfudge. Elementary school also had the book order forms every couple of months and trips to the local library’s book sales.

By junior high I wasn’t as much into following a whole series of books. I read some of the Anastasia books from Lois Lowry, maybe a couple of the scary Lois Duncans. I loved a book called The Girl with the Silver Eyes (a smart girl with super powers!) and I really liked What Katy Did. I remember some of the mandatory books for classes: My Side of the Mountain, Sounder, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia (how could the teacher make us cry like that?), even How to Eat Fried Worms.

In high school I was very affected by Elie Wiesel’s Night and adored The Count of Monte Cristo. Senior year brought the Canterbury Tales and Hamlet, and I chose The Catcher in the Rye for a term paper. (Salinger just passed away a couple weeks ago and there is still so much intrigue associated with him and that book.) By high school I was involved in so many activities and my classes were so demanding that I didn’t have much time to read for fun. I did work in a bookstore my senior year of high school, so I got the torture of browsing all the books I wished I had time to read. I do remember making time for the non-fiction book Friday Night Lights, however, and being obsessed with it, as my love of football in general was quite strong by then. (I liked the movie that was based on it, and I love the tv series that was inspired by it.)

Wow--it’s funny how much you can remember about the things you read as a kid, how they made you feel, and how you see that you have revisited some of them as an adult. It seems like the pure joy of reading was greatest in the early years, elementary, and junior high. Reading the Harry Potter books brought back that feeling. When they first started coming out, I was working as a school social worker, and my students from elementary through high school were reading the books, eagerly anticipating the next in the series. It was so much fun to share it with them and have an excuse to have HP items around my offices (it helps me better connect with the kids!). As a parent it is special to relive the classics with my son and discover all the new books out there. He absolutely loves “stories” and has memorized a couple short books that he reads to us. He is only a young four, and he expresses frustration that he can’t yet read by himself. I feel like his enjoyment of reading and eventual reading skills are more important than any academic area. Right now reading for him is associated with parent-child time, the joy of a book received as a gift, the independence of getting to choose his own books or use the computer for interactive books, and at preschool an opportunity to contribute answers or opinions since he loves to talk. Maybe someday he, too, will have the inspiration to write and will be much more successful than his mother at bringing ideas to fruition!


  1. Love Love the Canterbury Tales and Hamlet.

    So cool that you were able to connect with kids through a shared love of reading. I promise before this year is over I will finally read Harry Potter. I really don't know why I haven't made that leap already. I love the movies.

  2. You brought back memories for me. I loved Shel Silverstein, and I remeber my sister reading Little House on The Prarie to me, she had the whole series, which I thought was pretty cool.

  3. Rhythm and ryhme in children's literature - made me the poet I am today. Wait - maybe that is not a real endorsement!