Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Home is where the books are

I have always been a reader, but the arrival of offspring has cut my reading down to well, until recently, nothing. I taught myself to read and write when I was four. Not saying I was a prodigy or anything, but obviously I felt like I was missing out on something huge and had to be a part of it. Back in the 70's, phonics was becoming all the rage, but Mom had heard that there was no need to teach me to read because Kindergarten would introduce it. So, aside from reading to me nearly constantly and teaching me to write my name, really there was no daily lesson from Mom. But I figured it out on my own, much to her surprise.

I will never forget when I was in Kindergarten and the Book Fair came around for the first time. Mrs. Pogue, my teacher, pulled me over to the 2nd grade teacher and told her to pick out any book and she guaranteed I could read it. The 2nd grade teacher looked skeptical, but I read a 3rd grade book to her, standing there in the hallway. The look of utter satisfaction from my teacher and the utter shock from the other teacher was enough to fuel my desire to excel. I've always been a bit of a pleaser. I think I'm co-dependent. (And if I am, does that make you happy?)

By 5th grade, the achievement test scores had me reading at an 11th grade level and by 7th grade I was reading "post high school". (I was always sort of disappointed by that "post high school" score because it never told me just how much post high school I was. I wanted definitive answers as to how good I could read.) I was never without a book from probably 2nd grade on. There was never a period of time that I didn't have a book going. In 2nd grade I could knock back a Bobbsey Twins book in an hour flat. Little House on the Prairie was conquered in the 2nd grade as well - not just one book, but the entire series. When the teacher started reading them to us in the 3rd grade I was so past that.

I got a library card in the second grade because Mom and Dad couldn't afford to buy me all the books I was capable of reading. I will never forget that first visit to the library. I had piano lessons at 9am on Saturday mornings then we usually went to Wal*Mart, then to Consumer's for groceries, then back home. But that day, directly after lessons Mom took me to the library. To get a library card. Oh joy of heaven! Just walking through those doors and seeing all. those. books. and smelling the smell of all. those. books.... honestly, I don't think I could've been happier had Willie Wonka been standing right there to hand me an Everlasting Gobstopper himself. I can remember the librarian handing me my very own plastic card with MY name on it and she looked so tall and far away as I asked breathlessly, "How many books can I check out at once?" When she told me that I could check out as many as I wanted, I'm not sure she realized that I wanted all of them. Mom made me stop at 15. I had read them by Monday and couldn't wait until the next Saturday to go back.

As I got older the book report became a part of school. Most kids hated the book report. Oh, not me. I grooved on the book report. And then when we got into high school we didn't do book reports, we did book reviews. I didn't just report on the book - I was able to pick it apart and get down to the nitty gritty of it and tell everything there was to tell about that book. And I loved it with everything in me. One book review a year had to be done in a genre we weren't used to reading. My Senior year I chose Science Fiction - 1984 by Orwell. And then she mixed things up a bit by making us review the book in a more unorthodox way. Some kids made mobiles, some did posters, others did dioramas. I made the book 1984 into a children's book. I always was one for the strange and disturbing.

When I started work at a daycare the first place I checked out at my new job was the book nook. I had to see what kinds of books we were going to be reading to the kids. Even though I had been babysitting since I was 13, the books I encountered were the typical Little Golden books and Dr. Seuss. The daycare, though, had some titles and authors I wasn't familiar with. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day opened up a whole new world of children's literature for me and I am still hooked to this day. Sandra Boynton replaced Danielle Steele and I enrolled in Children's Book of the Month Club so that I could get a headstart on my future children's library.

Abby was 3 days old when Mr. Diva and I sat on the couch and read Goodnight Moon to her. Sam's been called "Sam-I-Am" since at the age of about 12 months he was so fascinated with hearing his own name read to him repeatedly that everyone in the family was forced to memorize Green Eggs and Ham. Kady ate more books than I feel should be allowable by law and seriously wondered if she was mine more than a few times. How could a child want to eat a book? Books are so sacred to me that I've never dogeared a page in my entire life and here I had a child who could eat the cover off of a board book in 2 minutes flat. She's over that now, thank God.

Abby is never without a book now. She owns more Babysitter's Club books than the Miami Public Library. She has every Junie B. Jones book written. She also has the beginnings of both the Little House series and Harry Potter. My mother in law lost her one night while she was babysitting. Turns out she wasn't lost - she was under her bed reading. It's a good thing she's a picky eater and doesn't eat much - she spends as much as 5 hours a day reading. Lord help her if she gets an appetite and her metabolism slows down. She can start and finish a Babysitter's Club book in 2 hours, much like me back in my Bobbsey Twins days. She's a child after my own heart. Sam prefers comic books and I'm okay with that. As long as he's reading I don't care if it's the owner's manual to the dishwasher. Just read, boy! Kady loves to read books now that she's eaten her fill. I imagine that in a few years she'll be reading a "How To" series on hostile world takeovers.

I've been so consumed with raising my children and helping to raise other people's as well, that my reading has been largely limited to children's books for the last few years. By "last few" I mean 10. Oh, I read Harry Potter when they came out. I read the Mitford series and I've read a book here and there over time. I'd grab a book off the shelf when I had a doctor's appointment and knew I'd be in the waiting room awhile. But there would be great spans where there was no reading books without pictures and funny voices for different characters. Now that Mr. Diva is working the evening shift and my darling friend, Jenn, works in a library I find myself reading again. Just this last week I was sitting in a geisha house with Sayuri pouring sake, I was with David Sedaris as he came out and smoked pot and crystal meth all through college. Oh, and Father Tim and Cynthia are doing just fine in Mitford.

It's been like coming home again. Sometimes that home is an okiya in Japan, other times it's a small town in the deep south. But they're all home nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

Oh Diva,
It's moments like these that make being a bun-wearing, finger-pointing, uptight, shhhhing librarian worthwhile (*wipes away a little tear.) That was beautiful!
~Boss Lady

kitty kat said...

It's always an amazing feeling to rediscover something that's so integral to you and your happiness, it never disappeared but simply let you go on as needed and simply awaited your return.

Queen Of Cheese said...

I LOOOOVVVEEEE to read too. I am always reading, even when I shouldn't be. There is usually a book in under the Jeep seat (Sonic take forever!), in my purse, in the boat, 5th wheel and office. I can read many at one time, sometimes I wonder why something happened and then realize it's a different book but that's what keeps it fun. I can also read the same book 50 times and get something new from it each time. How was Memoirs?

Melessa Gregg said...

I knew there was a reason I liked you! We both love books! And yes, Abby and Natalie are definitely cut from the same cloth. She hasn't discovered Babysitter's Club I know what to look for next time we go to the library.

I loved Memoirs of a Geisha.

Betty said...

Ah, a kindred spirit! Sometimes I feel that I am drowning in a sea of books because I live in a small apartment and can't, for the life of me, get rid of one, even a paperback. I do give some away to friends. Even then, I sometimes wonder what they are planning to do with them when they finish reading. That way lies madness.

Hillbilly Mom said...

My boys both liked The Magic Treehouse books. My 11-year-old likes the Artemis Fowl series, as well author Gordon Korman's books. Even my middle school and high school kids like those Gordon Kormans, especially the three-book Island series. I must admit that they grabbed my interest as well. They are real page-turners. Maybe Sam will look into those in his later years, if the comics lose their magic.

Kellyology said...

I went even further and majored in English where I could truly dissect a book. (Which BTW makes my poor grammar even scarier…) Then my worst fear happened after being forced to read about 6 books a week those last two years; I got sick of reading!

Don't worry. I eased back in a couple of years later with a couple of good smut novels and then 5 years later was able to finally pick up a good book. Now I just need some time to read that good book!;)

Anonymous said...

I know nobody here is a Fantasy fan, but that's my poison.(You know, the stuff that was the work of the devil according to Wyandotte High. Like Tolkien) My problem is, I get so absorbed in that world, that I'm depressed when I have to come back to the real world. Guess that comes with the territory when you're born in the wrong century. R.Jordan Rawks!!

Mrs. E said...

The Cap'n and Hubby D read it all. I know I am an English teacher but I don't get that many books read. When I decide to read, I don't want to do anything else until the book is finished. Since the house does need cleaned, laundry needs washed and dried, and hubby needs food,I try to keep my reading confined to the summer. It doesn't matter what time you go to bed if you don't have to get up at any certain time.

When the Cap'n was introduce to the comic book by my little brother, I was not too happy. Hubby D took the time to show me the vocabulary used in comic books and I was amazed. Cap'n N increased his vocabulary substantially and had to use the dictionary because being an English teacher I made him look up the words he didn't know. He still has thousands of comic books and buys more regularly. Cap'n can let you know what's out there that is acceptable. Reading is reading. I just wish I could get more students interested in the written word. Oh well they can't all be like you and yours. Dang it!!!

RJ said...

I think we were twins separted at birth and about 20 years apart!! I am a redhead by birth, an inveterate reader of anything I can lay my hands on and have a very big mouth!
Hi, SIS!

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I used to live for the Book Fairs and all of the new books I'd stumble across because of them. The best purchase I ever made was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin; I've lost track of how many times I read and re-read it as a kid. I was really happy in college when my Young Adult Literature class gave me an excuse to revisit it yet again.

Like mom, when I get into a book, all else fails to matter; unlike mom, I don't let that stop me from starting them, and have been known to stumble into work with only a couple of hours of sleep because of staying up all night because I was *this* close to finishing.

Like Diva, I always had a book with me, whether I was at school, in the car, out at a restaurant with the family . . . I often carried two books with me, in case I finished one or suddenly decided I was more in the mood for Stephen King than Robert Jordan that day. Needless to say, this did nothing to dispell my "nerd" status.

My reading took a big hit during college; everytime I tried to read something that wasn't class related I couldn't focus, since deep down I felt like if I was reading it should be something that was for school. Of course, then I wouldn't read anything school related, but would instead stay up all night playing video games or watching movies. Funny how the mind works sometimes.

Nowadays my reading goes in cycles; whenever I get into a reading mood I try to cram as much stuff in as possible, since I never know how long it's going to last.

Stacie said...

Yes, the smell of books is wonderful. I've seen what never getting rid of a book does to one's house, so I really try not to let my books take over. I give some away, sell some, I use to trade a lot. I have a book shelf by the front door that holds my beloved dictionaries and a few hardbacks, another book shlef next to my computer desk that holds a combination of hard backs, paper backs and a few cd's. Then on top of the computer desk there's one small shelf that holds my favorite among favorites. My hardback Left Behind series is up there, along with my treasured hard back copy of The Thorn Birds, my paperback copy of Lonesome Dove, Years by Lavyrle Spencer, Domina by Barbara Woods and a hard back copy of The White Pines series by Hilda Stahl, which is really three books in one. The White Pines is upside down, but I keep it anyway. When you have the book right side up acording to the cover, when it's opened up, it's upside down. It was glued wrong, but I don't care. I lost the dust jacket years ago, something got spilled on it, or a greasy french fry was left on it, or something.
That's not counting the misc. places you find my books throughout the entire house. There are several in my bedroom, a Nicholas Sparks hardback is even on top of the TV in there. Of course, there's always one in the bathroom, but that's probably tmi, isn't it?

MamaKBear said...

What? You didn't read every single Ramona book?!? (Beverly Cleary)

I taught myself to read too...but I was 3! :P Always loved to read, but unlike you, I hated doing book reports.

Once when I was a kid, I wrote a fan letter to Beverly Cleary, and she actually wrote back! I was beyond thrilled!

Redneck Diva said...

Marian, I knew if anyone would like this post it would be you and Cap'n Neurotic!

KittyKat, amen!

Mrs.Coach, I can't read more than one at a time. I've tried. My little brain is too full of other stuff to keep track of two books at once!

Melessa, Abby is completely mesmerized by Babysitter's Club. I never dreamed when my mom brought in two grocery sacks full of them (that she bought for .10 apiece) that they'd turn out to be her favorites.

Memoirs was wonderful, wasn't it? I will definitely be buying that one. The movie sucked rocks, though.

Betty, I hoarded books until FLYlady got hold of me and in one fell swoop I got rid of nearly all of my Stephen Kings, all of the Danielle Steeles and various other paperbacks. I kept my favorites, the ones I read repeatedly, but the rest have gone. I can't think about them or I'll end up re-buying them all!

Hillbilly Mom, we have one Magic Treehouse book on the LeapPad and Abby likes it, but Sam hasn't gotten into it too much yet. He did find some time traveler books at the library, so I'm going to direct him toward Magic Treehouse because I think they'd interest him as well.

Kelly, I can't imagine ever being burned out on reading! It's probably a good thing I didn't finish college, lol!

I gave up reading bodice-rippers because I'd finish one and be entirely pissed off that my life wasn't like that. I want real-life romance, too! So to keep my marriage intact I quit reading them. :)

Cedric, I replied to you in an email, but I'll go ahead and say it here, publicly - I like a good fantasy novel as well. There, I said it. I admit it. Nothing better than a good dragon fight, damsel in distress, shape-shifting hero story!

Mrs. E, if I'm in the middle of a really good book I'll stand and read it while I fix dinner. It's sad really.

I will definitely hit up the Cap'n for some comic advice. He seems to be a true expert!

RJ, always good to meet a long-lost sister! Anne of Green Gables was right in saying that kindred spirits exist!

Cap'n Neurotic, now that I'm married I haven't been staying up so late reading. If I stayed in the living room he got his feelings hurt that I wasn't with him. But if I read in bed he complained that the light was still on. Now that he's working the late shift I can read wherever I want!!

Handful, we're not weird! We're appreciative.

Stacie, I have my precious few that are so sacred that it's sad really. I have just now decided to let Abby read my Anne of Green Gables books, but ONLY if she reads them at home. She simply cannot take them to school where there is dirt I cannot control and kids who don't view books as sacred as we do. Perish the thought!

MamaKBear, I actually have never read a Ramona book! Can you believe that?? Abby has them all, but I've never read one. I was more of a Judy Blume fan.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Oh, something I forgot to mention earlier: I actually had to read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for a class in high school; of course, it was Spanish class, so what we actually read was Alexander y el Día Terrible, Horrible, Espantoso, Horroroso. Is it sad that I've forgotten 99% of what I learned in that class, but can still rattle off that title with no problem?

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...