Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Favorite Childhood Books

I noticed someone over at had compiled a list of nostalgic books from her childhood, and it prompted me to think back to a time uninterrupted by television, video games, cell phones or responsibilities.

My mom read to me from a book about dolls that would come to life after everyone had gone to bed, but I’ve long forgotten the name of the book. She read me Peter Pan, Treasure Island and poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson. We had a set of grocery-store encyclopedias. And she joined some kind of club where I got a series of books about history, world events, nature and science.

However, in Miss Sanford’s second grade class I struggled with reading. I hated my teacher. I hated school. If it weren’t for my mother taking time off from her job and coming to school to meet with the teacher, I don’t imagine I’d be writing this today. Whatever, my mom did and I think it was reading to me, it worked. By third grade, I was back on track with a love for my teacher again. Every elementary age kid needs to love her teacher. Mrs. Cox had taught my uncles and aunts and even my daddy. We had history as they say, and she still liked me. Mrs. Powell, Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Kirkpatrick (for the second of three times) followed and all fostered my love of reading.

By now, I was ordering from the Scholastic book club every chance I got and reading for myself, often against orders to “Turn out the light and go to bed!” Seventh grade brought a teacher who read to the class everyday. She introduced us to The Boxcar Children and though I was a little old for that book, it somehow captured my imagination. We did book reports and made fancy construction paper covers for illustrations.

High school rolled around and found me at the little library in Prattville every chance I got, helping the two old librarians shelve books while sampling the contents along the way. I read Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, Main Street, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, A Member of the Wedding, The Jungle, Seven Days in May, Rosemary’s Baby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and for a time silly books like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Maxwell “Get” Smart books. I always wondered why my mom grabbed up a copy of Tobacco Road and said I shouldn’t read it. Instead, I found Valley of the Dolls.

At the University of Alabama, I spent more time on required course reading. Still, I never lost my love of books, and when Jeff came along, Bill and I dove into children’s literature with a passion. Bill was working on his Master’s degree in education at the time. We both instinctively knew how important reading would be. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Mercer Meyer books like There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Peter Pan, Old Yeller, Huck Finn, the Narnia series, The Boxcar Children, all of Chris Van Allsburg’s wonderfully illustrated books, Judy Blume, S. E. Hinton—too many to name here, but these are the books Jeff and Scott will remember. Bill and I will also remember the closeness we felt each night as we closed the day reading to our sons.

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