The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

My Love Affair with Books

In the beginning, I didn’t know how to read. This was very frustrating for my mum and my teachers and, if memory serves correctly, for me. My mother, being the brilliant, wonderful, amazing mother that she is, realised that whatever the school was doing wasn’t helping. So she dug through her boxes, and she found what she needed. McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader for Young Children:

I don’t remember what the reader actually looked like, and it is quite possible that the versions were much more recent than those shown but, nonetheless, Mum taught me how to read in a very brief period of time by guiding me through McGuffey’s reader. For this I shall be eternally grateful. I also don’t remember this next bit, but Mum has told me about it so many times that I am pretty certain it is actually a fairly accurate recollection of history.

The first “real” book that I ever read, all on my own, was Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. Sadly, I do not own a copy of this book, but I have tracked down copies from local libraries, and it is as awesome today as it was when I first read it. However, while reading this book was an incredibly important event in my life, I track my love affair with books to a particular volume that sits proudly on my shelf, nestled in among many other volumes. While I have other copies of the same book, I treasure this particular copy. Mum read it to my sister Amanda and I while I was in kindergarten. Each evening we would gather around and she would read a chapter or two to us before we went to bed. The book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - forever volume one of The Chronicles of Narnia!

And thus began a passion for literature that has stayed with me throughout my life. To describe myself as a voracious reader is almost an understatement. While I was in grade school, my classmates would read one book whenever it was required for a book report every couple of months. I would read a book in class while also reading a book with the class. My teachers were forever frustrated by this., and many eventually worked out a compromise: I could read in class and read ahead of the class as long as I could also keep up with the class discussions. (As a side-note, karma has come back with a vengeance. I am forever pleading with students to put their books away for a few moments so that they can hear the directions being given. As a substitute, I am not able to work out the compromise with my students-for-the-day that my teachers did with me, but when I am teaching full-time, I most likely will.) I read the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia while in 4th grade, and gave a detailed book report of the entire series. I also read all of The Dark Is Rising Sequence, The Tripods Trilogy, and scores of other books. I was reading novels by John Grisham in middle school, while my classmates were reading Goosebumps and Maniac Magee. I started reading Ayn Rand in 8th grade, and had a post-college reading level before I reached high school.

The downside of my advanced reading, if such a downside can exist, is that I missed out on reading a lot of great books as a youth. Which is why I finally read Judy Blume’s series about Fudge last year. I did read a lot of children’s literature as a youth, though. Bridge to Terabithia, The Egypt Game, and Number the Stars as just a few examples. But I didn’t read The Giver and its two companion novels until last year, as well. But I am always reading.

I don’t know when I started building my own library, but I know I had it before high school. Pictures of my bedroom from when I was a teen show that not only did I love decorating my walls with posters, I loved having my books. Alas, the photographic evidence of such seems to have disappeared. I have always dreamed of the day when I would have a library in my own home.

Perhaps that library is a bit much to hope for now, but I can still dream, right? Well, I am working on it. As you may know, I have been working on a crazy project over the past several weeks. It actually started over a year ago, when my friend Miriam retired from teaching 4th grade and, in exchange for helping her pack up her classroom, she gave me almost all of her books. About 8 boxes worth, I believe. I had kept these boxed up for months, hoping to transfer them to my own classroom. But no job presented itself, and finally I decided that I was sick and tired of my books gathering dust in the basement. So Gretch and I went through all of them, gave away the ones we didn’t want, sorted them by grade level, and took the ones we wanted for our personal collection. I quickly realised I needed more shelves bookcases. So we started collecting them. I already had my few cases, Gretch had hers from before we got married, a friend had given us a lovely cherry oak (coloured–the case is actually particle board), and Miriam had given me two of hers. Still, it wasn’t enough. Gretch and I finally bought one, and then I got one off of freecycle. I put all of my books on shelves, and I was happy. For a time.

After we moved, the books were quickly unpacked and thrown onto shelves with very little organisation. This was not to be. So I began. I opened up a spreadsheet on Open Office, and I started recording the names of my books. Adult fiction. Adult nonfiction. Religion and philosophy. Vocational books. Juvenile fiction. Juvenile series. Juvenile picture books, poetry, and graphic novels. Juvenile fiction for the classroom. Juvenile fiction sets for the classroom. Juvenile picture books for the classroom. Juvenile nonfiction for the classroom. Several weeks and one thousand eight hundred thirty-eight books (including a few dozen magazines, but not including Gretch’s collection of Snoopy/Peanuts books), I finished. And here are the fruits of my labours:

And now that I have finally finished this project, I can devote some time and energy to developing my philosophy of education, which is another project that has been waiting for me to tackle. Not surprisingly, I will be delving into several of these books as I work on putting this together. Of course, it is also the 22nd of December, which means Christmas is going to be here fairly soon, so I may not have that much time to devote to philosophising. But I’ll see what I can do. Happy reading and happy holidays!

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One response

  1. Pingback: Sanctuary! «

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