Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Turning the Page, A Reading Autobiography - Part 2 - Late Childhood

Picking up right where I left off last time.... 

Throughout second and third grade, I consumed a healthy diet of chapter books, usually based off of the titles our teachers read to us in class.  Some of my favorites included the Little House on the Prairie series, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, and the Wayside Elementary School books by Louis Sachar.  Visiting the school library and having free reading time in class was the best!!  When there was a book fair at school or a book order, oh, I begged and pleaded my mom to please, please let me get something.  However, I am reminded of one negative experience in our elementary school library that I still cannot rectify to this day.  I was in second grade, and wanted to check a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book out I believe.  When I brought my selection up to the circulation desk though, the school librarian informed me that since I was in second grade, I could not check out books from the chapter book section, only the picture books and easy readers.  Well, let me tell you, I was horrified!  I felt ashamed having the school librarian reprimand me, and I was also beyond bored with the easy reader selection.  If I had to read one more earth-toned, blas√© tale of Toad and Frog I could seriously hurl.  But being afraid to speak up, I accepted my fate, counting the days until third grade.

It was during third grade that I really started to come around. I credit the amazing teacher I had, Mrs. Jacobs, with helping me come out of my shell. My teachers in first grade and second grade never took the time to try to get to know me. I was a good student, but terribly shy at school, and at home I had a new baby sister that I had to share my parents’ attention with. This was something new to me, as I was a spoiled only child for five and half years. I can’t conjure any specific reading experiences that I had on account of Mrs. Jacobs, but I do know that what she saw in me helped me turn over a new leaf, and made me feel that it was ok to start voicing my opinions and emerging from my own world. 

Well, now that I finally felt ready to connect with the world and my peers, I discovered it was not so easy to always fit in. Throughout my life, I had always been obsessed with popular culture and gravitated towards TV shows and movies that depicted the teenage and high school scene. Movies that I would watch time and again included Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Adventures in Baby-sitting. I also enjoyed tv shows like Beverly Hills 90210, Kids Incorporated, Mickey Mouse Club, Saved by the Bell, and Salute Your Shorts. All of these shows portrayed teenagers and their constant struggles and dramas. During the fourth grade, I began to devote a lot more time to thinking about being cool, becoming popular, and wanting to have a boyfriend or at least getting a guy to like me.

At this point, I discovered the series that I would probably say, had the most effect on me overall: The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin. I think I stumbled across the books at a friends house, borrowed one and was instantly addicted. I loved how the girls seemed so mature and sophisticated, going on fabulous trips and taking care of children with relative little adult supervision. I idolized them, the character of Stacey McGill in particular. She was from New York and without fail concocted the most wicked, debonair ensembles. I cannot even tell you how many times I read Boy Crazy Stacey, still my favorite BSC book ever.
When I was in fifth grade, I had another wonderful teacher, Mr. Hunger. He had a way of making every student feel important, and nurturing their individual interests. We did a Civil War unit in our class, and it sparked a great interest with me. I loved the history of the War Between the States, and started garnering more of an interest in nonfiction materials, as long as the books had a good story behind them. I wrote troves upon troves of Civil War poems, that my sister actually happened upon in my closet a few years ago. They were actually quite graphic, but well-crafted, and Mr. Hunger used to give me extra credit for reading them out loud to my class. I never could have gotten up in front the class and shared something so personal without a teacher like him. 

During the same year, I somehow became beyond obsessed with discovering everything I could about Presidents.  I read book after book, and then compiled my own lists and records of presidential facts. I had list after list of everything about the Presidents: where they went to college, the Presidents in height order, what their wives names were, who their vice-presidents were.  It was a bit ridiculous really, but it was my life’s work at the time.  I still can name all the Presidents in order to this day and enjoy presidential trivia. 

I should totes dig those old lists to celebrate the upcoming election!!  Please stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to my trip down memory lane in Part 3 - Adolescence/Adulthood.

1 comment:

  1. It's great that you had such great reading experiences, except for the second grade chapter book controversy. We educators/librarians should be inspired by those great teachers to make sure reading is a positive experience for everybody. Thanks for sharing that inspiring story.