Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Summers I Spent Reading...

The summers that reside in the memory of my childhood do not always resemble the present summers of my own daughters. I didn't go to a water park down the road like my daughters can (although we did visit a nearby lake on special occasions, and we swam in one of those three-foot deep, assemble-yourself pools in our backyard), and we rarely had a true family vacation (our week-long getaway usually consisted of visiting my grandparents in Texas).

A few things do remain the same, though. Childhood Me and my own girls both look forward to Vacation Bible School every summer, and we enjoy many of the same simple pleasures. Things like eating homemade ice cream, playing with sparklers on the Fourth of July, running through a sprinkler in the backyard, and digging into a juicy watermelon.

And, thank goodness, a common thread that runs through all of our Summers is an affinity for--and time spent--reading.

I will always thank God for the love of reading that my parents instilled in me. And in every Summer from my childhood that I can recall, that involved weekly trips to the local library. We would sign me up for the summer reading program and I would leave that wonderful building with a pile of books that reached all the way up to my chin.

I can't exactly remember the years, or my ages, but I do remember some of the books that I read during those summers I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Austin, Texas.

One Summer I decided that I would read every book in the Black Stallion series that I could find; another Summer I read every Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew book that I could get my hands on (that, I guess, is when my love for mysteries began!)

I remember some of the specific books that I discovered during those summers...books like Shane (probably the only Western I ever read, until I discovered the phenomenal Lonesome Dove when I was in college), Are You There God, It's me Margaret? (I can still remember the Sunday morning I hid it behind my hymnal in church and read it throughout the service), The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and A Wrinkle in Time (one Summer--I think after my fourth grade year--I read that entire series and was enthralled!).

As I got older, I'd spend my allowances during the Summer on paperback books from the Waldenbooks at the local shopping mall. (The library didn't stock enough of those teenage romances I'd discovered!) My parents still tried to convince me that the "classics" were what I really needed to be reading, not "Sweet Valley High" books or books with titles like P.S. I Love You and Christy's First Love. But, until I turned maybe fifteen, my summers were spent reading mysteries, romances, and young adult fiction. (Later on, I'd discover that the books recommended by my parents were wonderful after all.)

And so, during Summertime, I'd head home from the local library or the bookstore and spend countless hours...sometimes the entire day...reading. More times than not, I'd pull out my favorite beach towel and throw it on the ground under the big tree in our front yard. I'd lie on that towel for hours on hot June and July afternoons, the shade from the tree and the slight breeze in the air giving me some respite from the heat. But, really, the heat didn't seem to matter so much when I was really somewhere else anyway; I was in Narnia, or Nancy Drew's convertible, or the Boxcar Children's boxcar instead.

When it did get too hot, I'd come inside my room, get the box fan going, and sit on a corner of my bed for hours and read some more; then at night, Mom would oftentimes have to come into my room and tell me to turn off the flashlight I had hidden under my covers. I'd spend all night reading if I could get away with it.

These memories of my Summers spent reading came back to me recently, when Mom called me from a bookstore to ask if McKenna and Delaney had copies of two books she'd just found. The books were by Paula Danziger...The Cat Ate my Gymsuit, and The Pistachio Prescription. Had the girls read them? she wanted to know.

I immediately said they hadn't read them but that, yes, they would be great for the girls. In fact, I oohed and aahed and rambled on to Mom about how much I'd loved those books when I was younger.

I discovered The Cat Ate my Gymsuit the summer after my eighth grade. I immediately fell in love with the main character, Marcy, who is a typical junior high student who doesn't get along with her parents and feels like she's too fat and boys will never like her. She really finds out "who she is" when a new teacher comes to her school and teaches her to think outside of the box and learn to love herself. It was one of those books that really spoke to me, because it presented preteens like they really were. I was so excited to discover that the book was now considered a "classic" (I read it in the early 1980s, but it was actually written back in 1974), and it soon became part of Delaney's personal book collection.

Mom gave it to Delaney and she began reading it that night. (As a funny coincidence, she told one of her best friends about the book and discovered that Caroline was actually reading it right now too.) She ended up really liking the book, (thank goodness! I would have been upset if she hadn't). And then I sat down and re-read it again. And I was happy to discover that, even with almost-forty-year-old-eyes, I felt the same joy that I felt when I read it for the first time so many years ago on that beach towel in the front yard.

(By the way...this is what my original version looks like...yes, I still have it!...

and what the "new" version looks like...

That book...and so many, many more...are an integral part of my childhood and preteen Summers. I really can't think of Summertime without thinking about books. Sure... I think about the beach, and riding my bicycle throughout the neighborhood, and catching fireflies after dark...but really, more than anything, I remember those books. Those books, and the characters, and the settings they took me too, and the joy I felt in starting a new book, and then the satisfaction (and the sadness) I felt every time I turned a last page.

And so, this Summer, I am encouraging my girls to read. (Just the other day, I caught McKenna reading Of Mice and Men well into the night and...so sweet...Delaney has begun reading the "Junie B. Jones" books out loud to Sydney). And I have a smile on my face when I catch Gary reading a book between innings at our softball tournaments (reading is one of many favorites we share!).

And I am working on my pile of Summer books myself.

Because, really, what would my Summer be without them?


crazy working mom said...

It's great that you have passed on such a wonderful and rewarding love to your children! :)

Gin said...

I also love reading, and I read the Nancy Drew books when I was a girl,

K-Mom said...

I couldn't agree more with this post! I LOVE to read...and one of my first memories is sitting next to my mom pretending to read because that's what she was doing.

I just hope Miss P likes it as much as I do...it's one of my major comfort things!

Travis Erwin said...

I too was an Encyclopedia Brown fan.

Adrienne said...

I love, love, love to read!!!! My kids do too! It's a great thing!!! The kids saw the sign for VBS today and are super excited!

skrpndiva said...

Have you been to my blog and seen the list of books I've read this year? This is even good for me. I think I'm almost at my entire number from last year. For the past three years I've kept a running total and list as I found myself reading the same books more than once.

Love to read!


Edleen said...

i love that you still kept your original book! i have a few of mine too meant for my kids...although hard to part with them! ;)

hope you're enjoying the Summer!

She-Ra said...

ohhhh i love to read! We went to the big used book store last week to buy books for our big trip. lots of miles so need lots of books!

Cheryl Wray said...

Crazy--Reading is one of the most important things you can pass down, I think!

Gin--Always loved Nancy Drew!

Kmom--If you love to read, I'm sure your daughter will. It definitely is something that continues on to the next generation!

Travis--LOVED Encyclopedia!

Adrienne--I knew you, and the kids, loved it too!

Cheryl Wray said...

Jacquie--I think that is such a great idea! I need to check out your list (since it will probably give me an idea of some I need to read!).

Ed--I'm bad about holding on to EVERY book I read. :-)

She-ra--I LOVE used book stores. Reading is best on a trip!

hippochick said...

What would summer be without books? I always seem to have a favorite summer book. A standout from many summers ago was "Firefly Summer" by Maeve Binchy. How about "Water for Elephants"? I haven't found a favorite yet this summer.

As a kid, we didn't have library in our town. My cousin and I each got $1 allowance every two weeks. We would go to the Five and Dime in the nearby town and each buy two fifty cent books. That way, we had four books for two weeks. We read Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. What fun.

Your post brought back so many memories.

~hippo hugs~

hippochick said...

It's me again. I do have a favorite so far this summer andf I recommend it. I's "The power of three" by Laura Lippman. A compelling, if not uplifting, read.

Monogram Queen said...

Ah you know I have a special love of books and can greatly appreciate your post. That was me except I read all the time and still do. Nothing like a good book. Nothing!

Frasypoo said...

Hi Cheryl
I am a bookworm too!
We grew up reading British authors so all these authors are new to me.I did read Nancy Drew but Enid Blyton and Archie comics were very popular then.
I love reading,I house sit occasionaly and borrow like a million books from the library!

The gas prices have driven us to even attempt grocery shopping on the bike !!!I have to carry my purse in my hand becuase there is not place for it!If you ever see people on a bike with toilet tissue/paper towels strapped on the back of the bike its us!!!!

Lynilu said...

I'm quite a lot older, but your post brought back memories of my childhood summers! Thanks, Cheryl. :)

Cheryl Wray said...

Pam: I love anything by Maeve Binchy and I have Water for Elephants sitting here on my "to read" list.And thanks for the Power of Three recommendation; I haven't heard of it yet.

Queen--I KNEW that YOU would identify with this post, since you love reading so much!!!!

Frasypoo: I love to hear about what other people read as children. You know, I went through a major Archie comics book phase too! :-) Gas is crazy!!! Riding a bike to the grocery store is kind of a funny image, but hey? It's gotten that bad!

Lynilu--I think all of us have memories of summers like this, no matter our age!

Trish said...

It's great that you've passed your love of reading to your children! I'm trying to, but right now mine's at an age where she can't sit still long enough to be read to. Although, once in awhile it'll get really quiet in her bedroom and I'll go check on her, (convinced she's into something) and she'll be sitting there quietly looking at a book. I love that.
P.S. I loved Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew too. Oh yeah, and anything by Judy Blume.

Kathy said...

I also LOVE to read! Although, I don't do it as much as I used to.

Both of my kids like to read as well. They tend to read several books at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Great post as always!

Sheila said...

Ohhh how I remember my love for Nancy Drew books. As a kid I was known as a bookworm and wouldn't go out to play b/c I preferred to read...lol. My daughter is also an avid reader and I remember reading my novels out loud to her...lol

Thanks for the lovely compliments on my projects.

Cheryl said...

Hey girl! Hope you and your family had a great 4th. I love to read also. My daughter does but not my son. Glad to hear that your girls like it. You can learn so much from reading. I had rather read a book any day of the week than watch a movie. Your girls must really admire you for them be so interested. Sounds like you are a great Mom! Have a good evening my friend!

Nnairda's said...

You really brought back some memories. LOL about reading Judy Blume in church!!!!

It's hard to believe summer is almost over. School starts back for us next month. :(

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


Pauline said...

I loved the original box car children and remember tiger eyes, and fudge and i love are you there god its' me margaret. I had the entire sweet valley high series ... i loved to read (i should seriously make time again) .. i got your blog link from Jacquies! Thanks for a trip back to Jr. High

Pauline said...

Finding time to find new blogs is a past time!