Middle Childhood Reading Memories

June 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Books, Childhood Memories, Free, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 2 Comments

Our local library was a little over a mile away from our house and the back roads route made it pretty easy to ride our bikes there during the summer.  I looked forward to the summer book contest every year.  I was a bookworm as a child.  I could, and often did, spend days continuously reading with the exception of eating and taking care of hygiene.  Still, I never won the top prize.  There was one boy who read books of similar lengths who always read a dozen or so than I did.  I suppose that was for the best, though.  It’s always good to know that there is someone out there who pushes the limits of sanity when it comes to any hobby, job, etc.  It makes you all the more normal and all the less obsessed.

Most importantly to me, I didn’t win, because I refused to “cheat.”  There were many kids who read those Choose Your Own Adventure books and counted each and every one of them.  Those were the kids who ended up winning.  Taking a 30 page book and reading only a third to a half of it did not live up to the personal challenge implied by the contest.  I made sure to read only what I considered substantial books.  At that time, anything written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, or any other author whose stories lasted more than 100 pages counted.  Anything or anyone less did not.  So, even when evil girls like Pam or Lisa were announced as the winner at the summer end party, I held my head up high.  I looked at their folders and knew that their summer of reading (assuming they even read those kiddy books) did not live up to mine.  Not by a long shot.

This “the longer the better” attitude toward reading has carried on all the way to this day.  For example, when I had to read a book of the Old Testament for Confirmation, I chose Isaiah, not Genesis or Ruth.  Even within my own 52 Books or Bust challenge, I don’t consider books as “counting.”  Although I enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money, it felt wrong to me to consider that within my yearly tally.  I did end up adding it because it was something out of my normal choices.  I then read book Two and Three.  I did not count those.  That would be cheating.

I was surfing last night and found a reference to a book I loved very dearly at that age: A Girl of the Limberlost, written by Gene Stratton-Porter.  Just seeing the title sent me back to summertime where I would read under the stairs in the basement where it was cool and I felt like I was in my own world.  I thought that this is what it felt like to be an adult on your own.  Those memories are glorious and precious.  Oddly enough, I have no actual recollection of the book itself.  Just the way it felt to be reading it.  I know for certain that I read it more than once.  I enjoyed it nearly as much as the Little Women and Little House on the Prairie series.  So why is it that I can vividly see the cover of the book I read but not its contents?  Does the “if it was important you would remember it” philosophy apply?  Well, I plan to find out.

Danny introduced me to a site that provides free PDF and mp3 file downloads available for books or other documents that are in the public domain or when the responsible party grants permission to do so.  A Girl of the Limberlost is available in mp3 format and I intend to listen to it.  Certainly, I could read it, but I have precious little time to read and, as this book is meant for children and young adults, it would feel like cheating for me to read it and review it for this project.  So, I’ll download it to my mp3 player and listen to it while I take walks.  It will be fun to do that I think.  Maybe it will feel like having someone read me a book.

I will review the Internet Archive in much greater detail after I am able to process everything that it makes available.  I didn’t even look at the section that provides audio recordings.  Danny says that there are mp3s of concerts that sound incredible.  It was as overwhelming for me to look at that website as it was when I walked into the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.  There is just so much you will never know.


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  1. We are big readers in our house. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize there were public libraries. We didn’t live near one. In retrospect the closest one was 20 minutes from our home. But I borrrowed books from the school library all school year long and my folks took me to Givens (back when it was just a tiny store in a small house) and they also bought me every Nancy Drew Book (back then there were only 52) and Trixie Belden books (there were only 16).

    My kids and I visit the library every week. We all look forward to it. And I frequent booksales. Books are such great ways to learn, to enjoy new adventures…so many books, so little time…I love the Twilight Zone with Burgess Meredith. A holocaust leaves him alone in the world next a huge library and unfortuantely, his glasses break…what a disaster!

    At any rate, I am rambling…we listen to a lot of books on tape since we are in the car so much. Personally, I don’t think you have to read a book to count it as a book read. If you listen to someone else reading it, you are still enjoying the book. I read to Jack and Katrina for an hour pretty much every night. Daniel sometimes will say…isn’t Jack getting a little old for that? I hope he never gets too old because I enjoy reading the children’s books with the kids. I have read great books that I missed as a child: The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, Sign of the Beaver, and more.

    Ahhh…so many books…so little time….

  2. I forgot about Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon! I loved the Bobsey Twins, too. I am looking forward to reading these books with Emma and Allison as they get older. Hopefully they will love those books as much as I did. I also am looking forward to an excuse to read some of the good young adult literature that has been published since I became “too sophisticated” for it.

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