I’ve just begun reading Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Many people have recommended it to me, aghast that I have not already eaten it up.
I’ve gotten as far as the dedication:
For my parents — Vivian Taylor Turnage
and A.C. Turnage, Jr. — who taught me to love books.
What a gift. How big-hearted and understanding of Sheila to thank her parents in such a public way. Acknowledging this gift is a boon to parents everywhere.
My mother’s parents were children of farmers. Throughout their lives, they read the newspaper (in English and German) and they read the Bible (also in English and in German), but there were no books in their house.
My mother grew up in a small, rural Wisconsin village. There were 24 students in her graduating class. Books were essential to her. They brought her the world.
Although I lived the first part of my life in a somewhat larger Wisconsin city, I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a metropolis. There were books in our school library, the supply of which I had exhausted by the time I reached sixth grade. More importantly, there were books in our house, bookcases full of Book-of-the-Month Club books.
There was a good deal of nonfiction because my mother liked history and politics and cooking and philosophy. There was a lot of fiction popular during passing decades. I read those books, even though I didn’t understand them. I would re-read them later when I knew a little more.
The classics were represented by Reader’s Digest abridged versions specifically for children. Those versions of Lorna Doone and Tess of the D’Ubervilles and The Telltale Heart and The Pickwick Papers turned me into a person who enjoys classic books.
Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris is dog-eared. I was determined to memorize many of the poems.
“You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”
“Into the valley of death rode the six hundred …”
“A bird came down the walk: / He did not know I saw;”
There were many nights when my mother and I sat side by side, reading different books (she never read an entire book to me that I remember). We would look up once in awhile to read a line out loud, sharing what we’d learned or thought. We read indoors during the winter and outdoors during the summer in lawn chairs. We read on trips and in doctors’ offices. We read excellent books and we read fluff. We read newspapers and magazines.
As people prepare for graduation ceremonies for children of all ages, I hope some of those graduates will remember to thank their parents for teaching them to love books.
For my own mother, whose books surround me as I write this: Thank you, Mom. Giving me a love for reading by your example and your stocking our house with books was one of the best gifts you ever gave to me, and I love you for it.