Recently I came across a small relic of my teenage years–a reading log that was given to me the Christmas before I turned fifteen. I kept it faithfully all year long, recording the books I was reading outside of school—all 46 of them. I wonder how it would compare to a teen’s reading today.
My usual opening of the evaluation section was pretty undiscriminating: “This is a swell book…” which was used for a book about the St. Louis Cardinals as well as for Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith. I managed to change that a little when I described David Copperfield as “A fascinating book—long but not boring”, which is probably the way many kids today would describe the Harry Potter books. It’s a good thing no teacher was grading the comments.
Another interesting item in my log was the entry for who recommended the book. In my case that was sometimes my father, who kept mentioning books he was reading, or Seventeen magazine, but most of the books were recommended by May Lamberton
Becker. That’s a name that is not heard very much anymore, but she was an influential critic of young people’s books back in the day. My mother picked up a copy of Becker’s Adventures in Reading at a secondhand bookstore and I used it as a source of inspiration for years. I am forever grateful for her introduction to some of the books I still love.
Like most teens, I read books of all kinds—bestsellers, classics, mysteries, humor—that’s the way people become readers. You have to sample everything before you know what you like. And the source for all these books? The public library, of course. There were no bookstores in our neighborhood, and we wouldn’t have been able to buy all these books anyway. The only way kids can become avid readers is to be exposed to lots of books from which they can pick and choose. Later on perhaps people can buy the books they love, but for young people school and public libraries are the way to go. Long live libraries!
7 thoughts on “Who told you to read that?”
As a young teen age 13-14, our English teacher encouraged the class to write down the book titles of what we read in a collective class binder. Myself and 1 of my best friends were topping the charts in sheer voracious volume of book titles. 🙂
That sounds like a good teacher. I wonder whether you could go back and look at the binder someday.
This is an interesting post. Public libraries are a great benefit because is it makes many books available to the citizenry. I have not been a great reader of most books but the day after I graduated from eighth grade I went to the local library top get my adult librry card. With it i could take out books from the adult section of the library for the first time. What books did I want to read? College chemistry texts! I didn’t understand everything that I read but I really enjoyed learning something about chemists and some of the history of the science. I continued this reading for several more years. By the time I finally took chemistry as a senior in high school, it was just a mild review of the subject for me. And I still remember some of the biographical stories of the first chemists from hundreds of years ago! Thanks for the chance to tell you all this. And for all this rest of the readers, I did become an organic chemist who everntally founded his own company to make flavor chemicals.
It’s interesting to hear that you liked chemistry books. Probably no one would have predicted that. It just shows that kids need to have a wide variety of books available.
Thanks for the comment!
Adele, I agree libraries are wonderful for getting lots of books to skim,read,find what you like. A more recent favorite memory for me was going to a branch library with my granddaughter the afternoon before a holiday. Only the staff was there, others were preparing for the holiday elsewhere. But my granddaughter read until the branch closed and we went home with an armload of books.
Thanks for happy reading memories.
Yes, taking children to the library is a great pleasure. I remember spending quite a few hours in the children’s room when my kids were small. Reading memories are happy memories.
YES, YES, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t agree more! This is a wonderful post.