I have many special memories of summertime reading at the library when I was a little girl! I hope my children will share this love of reading, too!
Growing up, my summers entailed Vacation Bible School, swim lessons, and especially, the summer reading program at my local library.
Every writer should be a good reader, right? Well, there are no doubts what I was meant to become because I could have lived at the library.
Back then, my public library was in the same location, but most similarities end there. Instead of a spacious modern building chock full of computers and meeting rooms and more books than you could ever hope to read, the library was not much bigger than a house.
I still remember the joy I felt when entering on the front brick steps. Waving to Mrs. Whitehead and the other librarians as I walked past the circulation desk (they seemed to know all the kids in town) and making my way to the children’s section in the back.
My mom and many other parents would just drop their kids off at the library and let us enjoy a few hours reading or making crafts while they ran errands. I would never encourage that now, and it shows just how much the world has changed in 20 years.
It’s amazing to think my mom felt safe leaving my siblings and me there, as those were the days before cell phones (well, there was that mobile phone device that rode around in a bag in the car). The library was a safe haven back then.
Today, children can participate in most reading programs without even leaving their homes. But, back then, instead of the computerized logging systems libraries offers today, each kid had a folder where he or she manually wrote in the name of the books they’d read, the authors’ names, the page numbers and the skill level.
I remember relaxing on the pink wrap-around bench that sat under the bay window that held the paperbacks. I’d stretch out and enter the land of the Babysitter’s Club, the Boxcar Children or the Bobbsey Twins.
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But perhaps my favorite section was the children’s biographies and autobiographies. They sat on a shelf to the left of the children’s entrance. There was a small air vent on the floor, and I would sometimes just sit next to the vent, cooling myself on a hot summer day and learning about anyone from Andrew Jackson to Amelia Earhart.
I’ve always said real life is better than fiction, and I guess my journalistic leanings began in those days when I reveled in reading of the lives of men and women of old.
I can still smell the pages of the books. That old, slightly musty library smell. Not exactly fragrant…but I loved it.
When I moved back to my hometown two years ago, my mom encouraged me to stop back by my old favorite place on Main Street. I couldn’t believe how different the library had become, but I still get a little giddy every time I walk up those brick steps.
I can’t help but think how much those years spent reading there helped form the writer I’ve become.
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It will still be years before my 3-year-old and baby will be able to read, but I’ve already signed them up for the family reading program this summer. Any book I read to them will be counted. Good reading starts when mommies and daddies read to their children.
I’m excited to see the excitement on their faces every time I say, “Let’s go to the library!”
Perhaps some of their fondest childhood memories will be from the summer reading program, too.
What was YOUR favorite summertime activity as a kid? Are you re-living it now with your own kids? I’d love to hear from YOU!
*This story first appeared in the June 24, 2011 edition of the Mooresville Weekly.
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