Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Books

read to me

There's a line in Twin Peaks, where a character says that he grew up "in books." That's pretty much the answer I could give. I was a natural reader. I never actually learned to read: I just started reading, around the age of four. (These pictures are from my first birthday -- I wasn't reading yet. When it came to reading, I was a little ahead of the curve, but I was no prodigy.)

I have many fond, book-related memories. My paternal grandmother, who worked at an elementary school, played a crucial role in this by bringing me - literally - grocery sacks full of books that were being tossed out or otherwise destroyed by the school. One of my favorite books was an old health book from the 50s; oh, how I wish I still had that! I don't remember this, but heard stories from my mom about frequently getting in trouble in the first grade for trying to read a book under my desk lid. When I got to the reading class in 6th grade, I was handed a textbook that I'd read - for fun - at the age of seven or eight. My teachers weren't amused, and I was transferred to a "service" class for the rest of the semester (Ditto aide - some of the most fun I had in school).

Every Christmas, my Grandma K would give us a book- or paper-themed gift, a practice I adopted recently for my brother's kids. I'm thrilled to find that niece K (10) loves to read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, and nephew J (6) is a good reader as well. His current fave is Skippyjon Jones; the whole family enjoys that series. Honorary nephew C (8), who was diagnosed with a mild learning disability when he was three, is now - in the appropriate grade for his age - reading several grade levels ahead, and is always happy with books as gifts, as is his little sister, M (4), especially if the books are about sharks. Aside: I'm looking for a copy of Trixie Belden #4 (pictured), in any of the editions. Come payday, I'll start looking on eBay again, but it's starting at $18 on Amazon, and since niece K isn't sure she wants to collect the books, that's a lot to spend!

Something I learned along the way: books are great, but they are no substitute for life. My dad was right: it is impossible to meet people when you're locked in your room, reading. I was actually fairly active as a chid, but as a sullen teen, I started staying in and reading more and more, communicating less and less. This practice continued well into college, and even beyond. And guess what? I never really dated. I was, in many ways, a late bloomer, in part because I didn't interact with people that much.

My advice to the young readers in my life would be to enjoy the books, for sure, but to get outside and play, too! Books are wonderful, and, in my opinion, people who read* are more interesting, but sometimes you need to set the book down and go for a walk, or to a party. It's cool -- the book will be waiting when you get home! I also told niece K, over dinner this weekend, to not be dumb like me, and to hold on to her favorite books from childhood. It took me years to replace all the Trixie Belden books I cavalierly gave away when I was young, only to find that they were books I wanted to keep far into adulthood. (I'm relieved I never considered getting rid of my Happy Hollister books!)

*I make no judgement on the kind of reading, myself. I have a degree in English Literature, but the majority of my book list is mysteries, with some horror and sci-fi mixed in.

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