Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Musings of a lifelong reader, part one

The Poky Little PuppyIn a com­mu­ni­ty of read­ers, the dia­logue will occa­sion­al­ly drift to “do you remem­ber learn­ing to read?”

Do you?

I don’t. I have an ear­ly mem­o­ry of sit­ting on the floor in the bed­room at my grandmother’s house turn­ing the pages of The Poky Lit­tle Pup­py. I remem­ber the illus­tra­tions. I don’t remem­ber the words.

Do you remem­ber the first per­son who read a book out loud to you? Do you have strong images of the sounds, feel­ings, smells? The hands hold­ing the book?

I don’t. In fact, I can’t ever remem­ber hav­ing some­one read a book to me.

This isn’t the result of an old-age mem­o­ry … I’ve tried over the years to remem­ber these things and I’ve nev­er been able to pull up an ear­ly rec­ol­lec­tion of read­ing.

Jessie Wilcox SmithAt this moment in time, the dis­cus­sions in the com­mu­ni­ty of read­ers are filled with wor­ry about e-books and apps. Some are accept­ing that e-books will not mean the end of books but the broad­en­ing of access. Oth­ers are con­cerned about the expe­ri­ence of read­ing a pic­ture book to a tod­dler. Will chil­dren still become read­ers if books become dig­i­tal? Will the absence of that tac­tile bond­ing time of a book and a baby and a warm, lov­ing lap mean that chil­dren won’t grow up to become read­ers?

I often read a book a day. I can­not get in the car with­out tak­ing a book along with me, “just in case.” There is a book with a book­mark in it in every room of our house, “just in case.” (You nev­er know when you might be trapped in the sewing room with five min­utes of unsched­uled time.) My reserve list at the library has 79 books on it. (What if they all come in at the same time?) I pack for a two-day trip by tak­ing along at least six books. (You nev­er know.)

And yet I don’t remem­ber the expe­ri­ence of hav­ing some­one read to me. I’m not cer­tain that any­one ever did.

What I do remem­ber is that the peo­ple around me were read­ers.

Grand­pa read four news­pa­pers from cov­er-to-cov­er: the Min­neapo­lis Tri­bune (the dai­ly evening paper was deliv­ered to us in north­west­ern Wis­con­sin), the Rice Lake Chron­i­cle (the week­ly news in my home­town), the Glen­wood Tri­bune (the week­ly news from his home­town), and the Cano­va Her­ald (the week­ly news from my grandmother’s home­town). He had a sec­ond-grade edu­ca­tion because he was the old­est of ten chil­dren and they need­ed his help on the farm. He was flu­ent in two lan­guages, could add and sub­tract num­bers faster than a cal­cu­la­tor, and could build any­thing out of wood, includ­ing bridges, hous­es, church­es, and fur­ni­ture. I nev­er saw him read a book but not a day went by that I didn’t see him read­ing a news­pa­per for sev­er­al hours.

Ladies' Home JournalGrand­ma read the home­town news­pa­pers, too, but I usu­al­ly saw her read­ing women’s mag­a­zines: Ladies’ Home Jour­nal, Good House­keep­ing, Bet­ter Homes & Gar­dens, cro­chet­ing mag­a­zines, and the Reader’s Digest. She liked true-to-life sto­ries about peo­ple and ani­mals and chil­dren.

My moth­er was the read­er of books. She belonged to the Book of the Month Club and the Lit­er­ary Guild and the Read­ers’ Digest Book Club. I remem­ber see­ing her read To Kill a Mock­ing­bird (a hor­ri­fy­ing prospect to my six-year-old brain) and Appoint­ment in Samar­ra. She read a book every night when she went to bed, no mat­ter how tired she was. She had her father build book­shelves, some­thing that no oth­er mem­ber of our large and extend­ed fam­i­ly had in their hous­es.

I don’t remem­ber being read to, but the peo­ple around me were read­ers. Tac­tile or dig­i­tal, chil­dren will still absorb the plea­sures of read­ing when the peo­ple around them read.

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