Magical Reading: Chapter Books

I fear this history of my reading over the years may turn out to be longer than I originally planned, but quite frankly, that’s how I’ve always rolled. Anything I think will be an easy peasy project becomes anything but simple. So buckle up, it may take me all summer to chronicle the history of how books shaped my reading life.

If you missed my first post on my reading history, you could find it here.

Finally, Chapter Books!

When I entered my second-grade classroom, my eyes were immediately drawn to a table judys journeyin the rear with a stack of books that appeared to be thicker than the easy picture books and readers from the first grade. I didn’t care that they were above my grade level, I just wanted to burrow my face into the stack. I don’t remember when we were allowed to select what we wanted to haul home (although I do remember taking more books than I had time for, a practice that continues to this day). But I do remember Miss Rorrer reading us a chapter a day from Judy’s Journey by Lois Lenski, a title from American Regional series. I was entranced, and even though the teacher admonished us to not read ahead, I got a copy from the public library and devoured it.  I went on to try a few more by the author such as Prairie School and Flood Friday but never finished the series because I soon discovered something I liked better.

Prairie Life

I don’t recall if a librarian recommended the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series or if I discovered it on my own. Still, I remember hearing the angels sing and devouring them one after the other. I rarely read any book more than once, but I read this series at least four times (except for By The Shores of Silver Lake) throughout my childhood and once when I became an adult. I went on to read anything else about pioneer life I could find (especially loved Steele’s We Were There on the Oregon Trail), a topic that still interests me. As an adult, I went on to read the various biographies and historical accounts that chronicled what it was really like for the family. Two of note are Susan Wittig Albert’s A Wilder Rose, a novel based on Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, and the well researched and eye-opening Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser.

ipiccy little house

More Magic

island blueI don’t know how old I was when I discovered Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. However, I can still remember the magical feeling I experienced as I read about a girl’s survival (I later learned it was based on an actual Native American who lived alone on California’s San Nicolas Island for 18 years). To this day, I love a good survival story, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.

Historical Celebrities

What I remember most from the school library was the profusion of biographies available, mostly from the series Childhood of Famous Americans. Who else remembers those orange cloth-bound books with such titillating titles such as Pocahontas, Brave Girl, or Ben Franklin, Boy Printer? I remember enjoying them, especially Clara Barton, Girl Nurse. These most likely started my love for memoirs, especially those by famous people. (Insert your own snarky remark here.)


Weekly Reader and Book Fairweely reader

During elementary school, two events helped shape me as a reader. Once a week, the teacher would pass out the Weekly Reader, a small newspaper printed for children. I don’t remember much of what I read, but what I loved was the feel of the paper and how much I looked forward to seeing it. I think it’s what started my continued love of magazines (mainly about celebrities).

I also loved going to the “fair”–the Scholastic Book Fair anyway. It was a short downward slope to forming my shopaholic ways when it comes to buying books.

book fair

That’s it for this post. Stay tuned for the next part of my grade school years when I discovered books in series!







10 thoughts on “Magical Reading: Chapter Books

  1. What a fun stroll down memory lane. The Little House books and Island of the Blue Dolphins stand out from my childhood, too. Socks by Beverly Cleary is the first chapter book I recall reading. I read that when I lived in Kentucky. Interesting that I now live just down the road for where Cleary grew up. When I was in 5th grade, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt made a huge impression on me. I still count that as one of my favorite books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I’ve been compiling my list of reading books, I realized I didn’t read much Beverly Cleary and unsure why. I’m thinking it may be that my little library didn’t have any or it could be I preferred the Carolyn Haywood books (more on them in my next blog).


  2. Robin- Great post! I am also a huge fan of ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. As a kid whenever things got complicated in my house I would head outside, climb the hillside of the Hollywood Hills and pretend to act out the book. I was also a huge fan of FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Kim


  3. I remember reading Bobbsey Twins, then a lot of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and a series that I have been trying to identify for decades in which every title had a color in it. OMG thank you for reminding me about Weekly Reader!!!! So much fun. The only standalone titles I remember reading were from the school library operated by a (ahem) “mature” English woman named Mrs. Seward, who wore tweed suits and sensible shoes to work every day and was serious about her children’s literature. Lorna Doone, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and The Ghost in the Noonday Sun are the only three I remember from those years. I didn’t know Beverly Cleary existed until my own kids started reading! PS I just remembered a couple more that were gifts from my aunt–Winnie The Pooh and Stuart Little. I still have them.


    • My high school “mature” English teacher was Mrs. Paxton who assigned Moby Dick, Scarlet Letter, and Crucible, and out of all those, Moby was my favorite. (Would you believe I was able to find out her name by going to our yearbook on Amazing what you can find on the web!)


  4. You have helped me remember sitting on the floor of the house that served as our little town’s library, somewhere near the small 600 section…reading “Facts of Life”..
    Think that was my sex education circa 1948.

    Liked by 1 person

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