Thursday, May 18, 2017

Library reading clubs

This is another childhood memory. The public library in the town where I grew up does these (I think many if not most libraries did). When I was a kid, it was pretty simple, and was more or less on the honor listed the books you read and you got some kind of little token as a result.

Most years when I was a kid you got some kind of a sticker to paste in a folder you had. I remember one year there was a horse theme, for example, and you got paper horses to color in and glue onto a meadow scene. And one year was a monster theme, where you got eyes and horns and stuff and could color them in and then glue them onto an outline to make your monster. I don't know if the librarians/Friends of the Library bought them all ready to go, or as I think was more likely, they photocopied them and then cut them out.

(Horrors. I just realized this was an early example of "gamification," a trend I usually decry. Then again: I always read anyway, and it was kind of fun to make your picture. And if you filled up your horse-meadow or your monster face, you could get another one to do).

There were also McDonald's coupons for small servings of fries or small soft drinks that you got for 20 or 50 books read, something like that. Those weren't much of an attraction because we didn't have a McDonald's in town when I was a kid, so we had to wait until one of our parents felt like driving out to the nearest one (I think it was in Streetsboro). I think a lot of the coupons went unredeemed in my household.

I did the club until embarrassingly late - I think you could stay in until age 12 but most kids refused to do it after about 8 or 9. (I stayed in. I've always been a late bloomer in some ways and slow to give up things I liked, even if they were deemed "babyish" by the other kids). When I was older, I volunteered to help - spent a couple hours a week sitting at a table in the children's section handing out stickers and the coupons.

Part of my loyalty was that I just liked books and reading, part of it was because I knew and liked the librarians - Mr. Vince, the head librarian (I think it was not very many years ago I read he retired - he had a very long tenure there). And Miss Grissom, later Mrs. Origlio, the children's librarian, who was like the PERFECT children's librarian: she was good at encouraging shy and scared kids and good at toning down the more rambunctious ones. And she was one of those adults-outside-my-family who made me feel special, like I mattered, in a world where too often my peers tried to tell me I didn't.

And anyway, summer felt made for reading: the long days with no obligations, days that were sometimes rainy, or other times too hot to want to run around outside. I grew up in a town with five television stations and anyway there was generally nothing on tv nearly as compelling as what was in the books I checked out. And I was allowed to read in the living room, which was usually kept "for good" (the family room was where the tv was and was, well, "for the family.")

It's interesting now to think how my reading changed over the years - from Bill Peet picture books (and before that, Beatrix Potter - those started out being read TO me) to the various chapter books (I owned a set of the Narnia books, but I also remember reading "The 101 Dalmations," and "She Was Nice to Mice," and a series about a bear who was a secret agent, and all of the Beverly Cleary books (the Mouse and the Motorcycle ones were my favorites) and then "Summer of the Swans" and "My Brother Sam is Dead" and "Summer of my German Soldier" and all of the YA type books, some of which were kind of depressing and too issues-oriented for me (I STILL prefer books that are an escape). And then my first foray into the adult section as a young teen, and getting, without realizing it, a book with a fairly explicit sex scene and being very embarrassed by it (you would think they would have a little sticker somewhere indicating it, but whatever) and then moving strictly to "classics" figuring people who wrote before 1920 or so probably wouldn't put "that stuff" in there. (Well, they did - as you learn from Henry Fielding - they just don't DESCRIBE it).

I remember reading Dante's "Inferno" at 13 (and not getting very much of it). I was, in some ways, horribly pretentious as a young teen....

Sometimes I do wish I could go back to the days of Bill Peet and "Our Friends at Maple Hill Farm" and the "chapter books" that were just about funny animals doing funny things....

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I too was a big reader and loved the summer reading club at my library. I would spend lots of time in the library and was often asked to "watch the desk" when the children's librarian went to lunch. I reshelved books and read books from the adult section waaaaay early. Our library in my hometown has moved and the old library is now an arts center. Offices for smaller nonprofit arts groups and some gallery space for events. But I have many happy memories of spending summers there.