Summer is almost here and for me that means BOOKS! It's not like I don't read books the rest of the year, but during the summer I read to my Adventure Camp kids at my TaeKwonDo school every day for the eleven weeks of summer. I read 3-4 books every day so by the time the new school year comes around, we have gone through at least 220 books...and this is sometimes the ONLY time some of my kids get to enjoy a book!
Reading to me has been the foundation of my childhood. It let me escape from the drama surrounding me. It allowed me to visit new places...meet new people...all from the comfort of my bedroom or front porch. I lived in a very small town and this was the library I visited as often as my mother would allow. My older sister even worked at this library when she was a teenager but I somehow doubt Carol had a passion for the written word as much as I did.
I still remember the day I was finally old enough to check out my own books. I was about 5 or 6 and there was a special row of books located behind the librarian's desk where first timers could go and pick out ANY book from that shelf. It's not like today where there are literally millions of books a kid could get their hands on, so those 20 or 30 books I was allowed to browse as a first timer was like giving me a golden ticket to OZ and I just had to figure out which train to catch!
You might find it hard to believe, but the very first book I selected to take home was a DICTIONARY! I was fascinated with the illustrations and wanted to learn more about the words hidden inside. The librarian gave me a funny look because why would a little kid want to read a dictionary, but today I wonder...why did she put it on the first-timer shelf for me to select it? ;~)
I ran home with my treasure and it took me a week to read through the entire book. Granted, it was a small beginner dictionary but when I told my mother the next weekend I was ready to go back to the library for another book, she didn't believe I had read it. She sat me down and literally gave me an oral test on random words from that book. I don't know who was more surprised..my mother because I answered every question correctly...or myself because I remembered what those words meant. In any case, she let me go back to the library that day and from then on I made it my summer time goal to always read a minimum of 100 books before going back to school in the fall.
The summer I turned 9 or 10 my library ran a writing contest. The theme was something about being proud to be an American and I entered the contest. I was big into horses back then...even thought I would either be a vet when I grew up or would one day own my own horse ranch...so when I found out first prize for my age group was a copy of MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE, I just had to enter! I don't remember what I wrote about but it must have been impressive because I ended up winning first place and have read my copy of Misty many times since that day. It holds a special place on my bookshelf...a reminder of how books have been a life long friend to me.
The Gueydan library is still open for business, still tempting children with tantalizing dreams of adventure to faraway lands. And I'm sure they probably still have an old dictionary or two just waiting for another little girl to come in and discover the magic hiding within those well worn pages...