Slice of Life Writing Challenge – March 27, 2021
I’m a reader because of you.
I’ll never forget the summer following first grade when my mom allowed my big sister Pam and me to ride our bikes to the public library. Just the two of us. I was the bargaining chip for negotiating the deal. Mom wouldn’t let my sister go alone, so if she brought me along, she wouldn’t be alone AND my mom would have some kid-free time. The bargain was made and away we pedaled.
Not only was I concerned about the distance to and from the library, but I was also anxious about the librarian in the basement. Yes, the children’s department of our public library was located downstairs in the basement along with the librarian. Her outfits resembled that of a 1930s spinster complete with practical-length wool skirts and sensible shoes. She rarely, if ever, wore a smile. Truth be told, I was terrified of her and made sure to follow the “quiet” rule hoping she wouldn’t notice I was there. There sure were lots of rules for my seven-year-old self to remember, especially a seven-year old who liked to wander away from the shelves of familiar picture books and easy readers into the taller stacks where my sister seemed to always disappear.
Being four years older, the thing I desired most was to be a reader like Pam. She was and still is an avid reader. I had started my reading journey with Dick, Jane, and Spot, but what I craved was to that dreamy get lost in a book expression I observed in her. I just wasn’t sure how to get it until that summer.
One day after being shushed too many times, my sister pulled me down onto the cool marble floor of the library in front of the shelves labeled FIC CLE and pulled out Ramona the Pest. She quietly began to read and I remember I didn’t want her to stop.
I can still recall the questioning sideways glance over the top of the librarian’s spectacles when I confidently placed the book on the counter to be checked out. As regular patrons, I’m sure she understood it would be read to me and not by me. She checked it out with a few reminders of the rules about how to care for the books properly since I was not into uncharted chapter book territory. I placed my precious cargo in my wire basket and cycled home.
I spent the remainder of that summer listening as my mom and sister introduced me to Beverly Cleary’s characters that were just like me and my friends. I saw myself in Ramona and glimmers of Beezus in my big sister. My brother Paul had hints of Henry Huggins. I checked out every single book that summer. I checked them out again the next summer and read them independently. I moved on to read stand alone novels, like The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I read through the entire collection available.
I became a reader because of Beverly Cleary and my big sister Pam.