Ah, the summer reading program. Evie has been participating at our local library, and it sure brings back memories.
Growing up, the library was probably my favorite place on earth. I have spoken before about how, uh, intense I was about reading as a kid:
Speaking of being a weirdo about reading, when I was little I read like a kid possessed! I gave new definition to the term book-worm. I used to hide behind the couch so my mom didn’t catch me reading. Sometimes she would force me to go outside and get some fresh air so I would pretend like I had to go to the bathroom and throw a book out the window and then go outside and retrieve it and hide behind the garage and continue to read. When I ran out of books I would read anything including my mom’s old text books and even the backs of all the shampoo bottles or things in the medicine cabinet. I am not making this up!
(Side note: is quoting yourself from an earlier blog post weird?) (Side note #2: I don’t mean that to sound like I had to hide from my mom because she didn’t want me reading. (That was my dad.) My mom just didn’t want me reading all. the. time. to the exclusion of all else in my life, which is what I usually did.)
I did not need a summer reading program to encourage me to read. On the contrary, you couldn’t have physically prevented me from reading over the summer. The best part *about* the summer was all the free time I had to read. Every day I would ride my bike to the library to return the four or five books I had read overnight. When I discovered they would actually give you things for free if you simply listed all the books you had read, it was a no brainer. (Especially if someone would give you honest to goodness Pizza Hut Pizza for reading, aka Book It!)
Even at that age, I knew the prizes they gave out were pretty lame. But it was a free bonus for doing something I wanted to do anyway. The grand prize was usually a tee shirt that said something about the library. I loved those tee shirts. I was proud of them. I’m not really sure why, since it wasn’t very difficult for me to get to the grand prize level, and I always continued to read long after I hit the top, but I guess it was a shirt about the library, and I loved the library. These days, I wear shirts about other things I love, like the Packers or Thundercats or Jim’s Cheesesteaks.
I remember proudly presenting my carefully handwritten list of books to the librarian, the margins scribbled in with book titles that didn’t fit in the slots (it only went to 100). I also remember my shame and outrage when the librarian told me that she didn’t believe me, and it wasn’t possible that I could have read that many books so soon after the summer reading program started. I think my mom had to vouch for me or something, and even still the librarian thought we were trying to pull a fast one on her (you know, because the library tee shirt and eraser that looked like a crocodile were well worth the effort of a con job). And you know, in retrospect, what did she think I was doing in the library every day in the summer, setting up my alibi? Why did I keep checking out all those books if I wasn’t reading them? Could she have been so unobservant that she didn’t notice that I was in her place of work almost as much as she was?
Mean old librarians aside (and believe me, the mean old librarians of Chicago put the mean old librarians of back home to shame), libraries and the summer reading program will be forever ensconced in the deepest part of my heart. The summer reading program is one of the quintessential experiences of youth. I’m so hopeful that Evie will look back on them with the fondness that I do.