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