Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My Life as a Reader, Part 1

My Life as a Reader, Part 1:

I've always had low taste in literature. Naturally, I blame my parents.

One of my early memories of my mother is of her holding me up to the shelves in the public library in Mexia, Texas, and letting me pick a book to take home. The one I remember choosing was about Clementine, a flying pig. I liked it so much that I checked it out over and over. (I've looked for the book since, but I've never been able to find it. Maybe I made it up.) What kind of start is that for a young reader?

That library was phased out, and it's now an Episcopal Church. Which seems kind of appropriate to me.

When I started going alone to the new (air-conditioned!) Gibbs Memorial Library, riding my crummy secondhand bike, I checked out series books: the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tarzan, Bomba the Jungle Boy, the Bobbsey Twins. My parents didn't care. They didn't say, "Why are you reading that crap? Doesn't the library have a copy of Crime and Punishment?" They just let me read whatever I wanted to.

My teachers didn't care, either, so maybe it's partially their fault. They let us go to the school library on certain days, and we could read whatever we wanted to and check out anything we liked. It was in the library at Ross Avenue Elementary School that I ran across Rocketship Galileo, a book that pretty much initiated my years'-long immersion in SF.

Come to think of it, I guess the librarians didn't care, either, or they wouldn't have ordered books by Robert A. Heinlein in the first place.

So I'd like to take this opportunity, though it's far too late, to thank my parents, my teachers, and those librarians. If I didn't have low taste in literature, I'd probably have no taste at all.


Mystery Dawg said...

Thanks for the plug for the educators. One of the reasons I entered the profession was to help children and reading is one of the most important skills that any child can acquire.

James Reasoner said...

Bill, that's pretty much my story, too, except it was a bookmobile that came out from the Fort Worth Public Library every Saturday and parked under a shade tree on Main Street in the little town where I lived (and still live -- the tree's still there, too). The bookmobile stopped coming in 1964 when the town opened its own, very small library. I volunteered there just to be around all the books. One of them was Heinlein's HAVE SPACESUIT WILL TRAVEL. Things were, as they say, never the same after that.

Frank Denton said...

I never understood teachers who didn't let their kids choose whatever they wanted. When I taught elementary school parents would sometimes ask me why the students didn't have to read specific books. I would answer 'just let them read whatever they want. Encourage them to become readers. There's time enough for reading lists later.' 'But all they want to read is The Black Stallion.' 'So...they're reading aren't they?'

Anonymous said...

Wow! Finally a mention of Clementine the Flying Pig! I have searched to no avail for the book, which was my favorite as a child. No one has even heard of it! Because of my love for Clementine, I bought a flying pig pin, but when I wear it, everyone just thinks I'm a cynic.

Unknown said...

I can't find the book, either. I was beginning to wonder if I'd made up the whole thing. I'm glad to hear that someone else remembers it.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for Clementine the Flying Pig for years. It was one of my mom's favorite books as a child and I hope to give her a copy of it as a gift. Does anyone know who authored it?

Anonymous said...

There's a group, alt.children.lit or alt.lit.children, where you can ask a question like "Does anyone know anything about that book about Clementine the flying pig" and several people will provide the author, title, publisher and date for you.

Unknown said...

I should give that a try.

Nancy Standlee said...

As a former elementary school librarian, I appreciate your comments. I just looked on Amazon.com and check out this listing..
Is this the one? We discussed at length in my children's lit classes that children go through stages of reading and hopefully they get to the next higher level. I'm so glad my Mom let me read all the "True Confession" magazines she did in the late 40's and early 50's. It was a stage and I moved on. A reader will never be bored or a painter..After I retired I've taken up painting..

Nancy Standlee said...

I've found another book that the children loved on Amazon.com.. Perfect the Pig..it was a Reading Rainbow book and a great read.

Unknown said...

I'll bet that's the one. I had the first name wrong by one letter. Great, and many thanks!

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