I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
"Enough Book Shelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991
As a young child, one element of summer I can remember being as prominent and important as swimming, soaking up rays of sunshine and grilling outiside was reading. I remember my mother always taking my brother and I routinely to the library where we participated in the summer reading program. The program required us to read a certain quantity of books from a variety of genres in order to win stamps on board games (aka, a kid friendly book log). The stamps would later lead to stickers and other treasured knick knacks qualifying as prizes in the eyes of children.
Despite the level of sophistication of the program or its prizes, I always deeply enjoyed this annual event. An event that encouraged me to get lost among the book shelves for hours, as I reveled in the possibilities of new naratives and characters that would captivate me for the next week or two.
As I grew older, my district school sent out summer reading lists. When I first started receiving these lists, recommendations were common and requirements were few. But as I grew in maturity and grade level the freedom to choose was squashed. A one to two page letter fraught with a small list of required titles and book report guidelines would be mailed to my home. I never viewed these lists negatively. They were merely another fact of my sheltered suburban American life, like breathing air, eating dinner and riding in my mother's mini van.
As I reflect upon childhood library adventures and carefully constructed book reports, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am grateful to have a mother who cared about her children's education and had the time to take us on weekly library trips. I am grateful for all the enthusiastic children's librarians who put together the programs and met me each week with smiles as they looked over my board games with approval. I am grateful to have lived in a place during a time in history where I could have easy access to a building full of great books free of charge.
The Help, the setting is Jackson, Mississippi. The time period is the 1960s. Skeeter, a twenty-three year old white girl, becomes friendly with an older black maid named Aibleen because of a weekly column she writes for the local paper. As their friendship blossoms and conversations become increasingly honest, Aibleen is forced to remind Skeeter that she does not have access to the library because of the color of her skin.
Aibleen's words, "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library," forced me to place the book on my lap for a few moments. The thought of not having access to commonplace books and information became an increasingly disturbing thought. My mind began jumping rapidly between thoughts as I reflected upon how different life would be if it were void of diverse reading experiences.
Therefore, as I increase the number of lazy days I spend wrapped up in novels, books of poetry and essays this summer, I hope I can remember to cultivate a sense of gratitude. I hope I can remember not to take for granted the works of authors who enrich my life so deeply.
The first texts I will be reading this summer include Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, Bossypants by Tina Fey and Wilderness Volume 1 --The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison (poetry). I would love to know what you're reading this summer so I can add to my list! Leave comments below!!