Sunday, August 21, 2005

On Books and Reading

I think one of the greatest gifts my mom gave to me was a love for reading. She read to me constantly when I was young, which meant I learned to read at a young age and fell in love with books quickly. I spent a good deal of my childhood absorbed in a world other than my own. In fact, I was probably a little TOO in love with books, if that's possible. Grounding was an ineffective punishment because I wanted to be inside with my nose in a book anyway. My dad was the high school principal at the time, so he had to go to all the varsity sporting events, and I remember one time when I had to go to a basketball game with him. I took a book and sat in the bleachers, off to the side--even with fans cheering, scoreboard buzzing, and all the noise of a basketball game, I was lost in fiction.

Steve, on the other hand, hated to read for years. It wasn't until our junior year of high school, when we had a fantastic English teacher, Mr. Robert Wilson, that Steve discovered he actually liked books. The difference was that unlike terrible English teachers we'd had in the past, Mr. Wilson didn't require us to read "classic" books that someone somewhere decided all tenth graders should write book reports on. (First of all, like most of the students actually read and write the reports themselves anyway. And second of all, who composed that list?? Animal Farm?? I really read some less-than-stellar books off of those required lists.) He wisely understood that such requirements usually stifle students' interest in books. Who wants to read when they associate reading primarily with boring books they're required to read?

Mr. Wilson did make us read some boring books in class; don't get me wrong. I hated The Great Gatsby. But he started every class period with fifteen minutes or so of free reading time. We were encouraged to read absolutely anything we were interested in. If I ever become an English teacher (which I won't), that's what I would do. It's the only way to resuscitate an interest in books that, sadly, most teachers manage to kill in most students by the time they reach high school.

Fast forward six or seven years, and now you have a marriage of two book-a-holics. I just finished painting a six-foot, five-shelf bookshelf that I've had for a while, and we have already filled that up and need more bookshelf space. Then, never mind that we haven't even read all the books we have; we go to Family Christian on Saturday and buy four more books (in our defense, we had a $50 gift certificate to spend). I can't help it; I'm absolutely addicted to books. Every time I go to Barnes & Noble or Borders or someplace, I find myself a little sad at the realization that I will never in a lifetime be able to read all the good books that are out there--not to mention the fact that more are produced every day. And I don't think I could have married a man who didn't enjoy reading, too. (So thank goodness for Mr. Wilson!)

Anyway, tonight we got on the topic of books we liked as kids, and I was explaining to Steve my obsession with The Baby-sitters Club. I'll admit it. I was hooked. I had all of them, from 1 to 70-something, until I grew out of the series. (I never did understand how I started them in third grade, but by the time I was in sixth grade, those baby-sitters were STILL in the eighth grade...but whatever.) Steve was, of course, skeptical about them. Our conversation went something like this:

Steve: Were there any mysteries? I liked The Boxcar Children because there was always a mystery to solve.
Amy: Well, there weren't really mysteries, but they did have spin-off series. There was a mystery series, and then they had Super Specials...
Steve: *snickering* Super Specials? Generally when I use the term 'super special,' I mean it in a sarcastic way. Like, 'Wow, Ame, that was super special.'
Amy: Stop! They were good!
Steve: So what were these books about? I mean, did anything happen in them besides baby-sitting?
Amy: Yeah, of course.
Steve: Was there any shooting?
Amy: *laughing* No...
Steve: Did anything get blown up?


Jackie said...
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Jackie said...

Ugh .. men .. they don't know a good book series when the see one do they?! I was totally into the babysitters club .. and just recently while going through all of my junk I found my box will all of them stored in it ... it broke my heart to have to pack them away, and after finding them again I thought hmm is it time for Goodwill .. haha NOPE! They're back in the box and stored high up on a shelf in my attic!