I don’t remember the specifics of the summer (summers?) when my mom took me to the library for the reading program. It was for one of those things where a kid reads some books and earns points or toys or something to encourage reading. I didn’t need the encouragement, but I enjoyed it regardless.
Our visits could have been weekly or daily. And it could have been just a month one summer, or the whole summer break for a few years when I was in grade school. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter.
Because what I remember is my mom taking me and my sister to the library many, many times (and on-demand if my memory’s to be believed). School was closed, so I couldn’t get books out of the library there. And as much as I loved being outside, I could only handle so much sunburn and fingers pruned from pools and bleeding from fishhooks. Besides, I also loved books, and I needed a lot of them.
So my mom would take me to the library where I’d jam my backpack to where it weighed as much as I did, and I was a big kid.
Then, on my return trip the next week/day/whatever, I’d sit at a table with a librarian. She’d ask questions about the book. I’d tell her what happened and what I liked and what I didn’t. She’d recommend other books I might like. Then, to my surprise, she would offer me some special little tchotchke—I seem to remember a red flute-like whistle that I was fond of—as if just getting to learn about Greek mythology and volcanoes and reptiles weren’t enough by itself!
My mom would again help me pick out all the exciting tales and tomes of knowledge that I’d take home to hunch over. And then we’d do it all again.
I don’t remember my dad ever taking me to the library. That’s not to say he didn’t; I just don’t remember it.
What I do remember is my dad taking me to the bookstore. Back then it was Walden’s in the mall. And whenever we went, the only limit to how many books he’d buy for his kids was based on how much cash he had in his wallet that day.
If I wanted toys? Nope. (Well, probably nope. But sometimes yes.)
If I wanted books? Always yes. No questions asked—my pop had his wallet ready.
Up until I earned my own money, my father would buy me as many books as I asked for. And he probably would have still if I hadn’t been too proud to let somebody else pay for my addiction.
And I don’t remember them once questioning my choice in titles. If it was available and had pages with words and no dirty pictures, it was mine. (Maybe that one limitation was another reason I started buying my own.)
Not only did they not censor or question what might be appropriate for me, they also engaged. They made sure they knew what I was reading and what it was about. My mom would ask in-depth questions on car rides much like that librarian.
I even used to read aloud to them as part of another school-sponsored reading program. I think it was Book-It, where I’d earn personal pizzas from Pizza Hut for every so many books I read. This was heaven for me—I got to read about swords and dragons AND get pizza!
But my poor parents bought me those books, then endured a 10-year-old reading Dragonlance aloud for probably more than a year.
Bless their souls.