Reading is Fundamental by Deb Eileen

One summer when I was a small kid our library held a reading program. In an effort to encourage wee readers they created a “treasure map” and for each book read you received a sticker. If you filled in the entire map you earned a gift certificate for McDonalds. Nothing like artery clogging food to inspire you to feed your mind.

After the first week, already anticipating the tang of salty fries, I completed the ten books required to finish the map. If I had to guess the list included a few Judy Blume’s, some Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and a few of those choose your own adventure books that were popular at the time. The librarian looked at me and stated ( in a very loud voice for a library) that she did not believe I had read all of the books. She didn’t call me a liar, but she implied strongly that I might be the kind of kid to stretch the truth if some nuggets were on the line.

A few moments later my mom marched me back and had me summarize each book for the librarian as proof. The librarian begrudgingly handed over the gift certificate. She did it again the next week, and the one after, and the one after that until the summer ended. The library never repeated the reading program. It most likely was for the best, all that fast food was making my heart race.

I’ve never been able to be without something to read. I read the shampoo bottle in the shower. I always have a book with me and stacks of “to be read” piled around the house. I compulsively go through the book reviews on the weekend and make lists of even more books I want to read. When I stroll into a bookstore, telling myself it is just to look, I get a slight shake. I’m a junkie.

The few times I’ve been stranded without a book I’ve turned to disturbing lengths to find something, anything, to read. On one occasion I read (cover to cover) a professional journal on the heating and cooling industry. I have no shame. No desire to recover.

From the time I was old enough to know that someone (a very lucky someone) got to write books, I knew that is what I wanted. When I’m not writing, I’m reading. If I promise to share my fries- do you promise to read all of our books?

10 Replies to “Reading is Fundamental by Deb Eileen”

  1. Are you my alter ego? If I look in the mirror, do I see your reflection or mine?

    That librarian must have been roommates with my fourth grade teacher, who thought my parents had written (and illustrated in marker!) my book reports. How many parent-teacher conferences do you need to have before they believe you? (It’s a trick question: they never believe you)

    Encyclopedia Brown rocks. And everyone in Judy Blume’s books. Did you ever read the Great Brain?

    I know without a doubt that you earned those salty fries. You go, girl!

  2. Other than her mother’s intelligence and good looks, the best thing we as parents, gave our daughter was a love of reading. Growing up, my mother encouraged me to read and I went on to walk with Moses, sit at King Arthurs table, sail with Sir Francis Drake, and ride with Wild Bill Hickok. Reading took a skinny little kid from Milwaukee to places he could only dream of. In the service, I always had a paperback in my fatigues and to this day am rarely far from a library book. To know that my daughter will take someone on the same type of mystical journey gives me a very, very big lump in my throat.
    When she graduated from college the gift I gave her was a Lladro statue of Don Quiote to remind her of the song from Man of LaMancha, To Dream the Impossible Dream. Only a parent could know the joy from seeing their child actually live that dream. She has been a real joy as we see what she has accomplished. Too bad she turned out to be such a liberal. I guess it was God’s way of keeping me humble.

  3. I remember those contests/challenges at my local library growing up. I was always intimidated for some reason. Maybe because they stressed huge numbers of books read. (Secretly, I wanted to though.) Instead, I took out a volume of Edgar Allan Poe, and struggled through the stories (I was 9), but loved it.

  4. Our library did group projects, where if all the kids in town read something like 18,000 books, we’d get a pet salamander for our classroom. I wasn’t very inspired. Plus I was sneaking into the grown up books and I didn’t think they’d be excited to post my reading of Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele titles in the paper with the rest of the big readers 🙂

  5. Now I know why they stopped that “get free fries if you read” program. It was you! I haven’t read a book since fourth grade after you ruined it for the rest of us by reading too many books. Now, explain this to me… why should I read your upcoming book if I can just wait for the movie?

  6. By my “almost-to-be” 11th summer, I had read every childrens and YA book in our library. Talk about panic time, what was I going to do? My mom saved that summer vacation by marching me into the Head Librarian’s office where I received special permission to enter the adult section and actually borrow those books…but only after Mom signed a release form. Eileen’s very proud Dad is right about instilling the love of reading to a child. Computers, video games, sports’ camps, dance classes, etc., are all fine in moderation, yet I can’t believe they’ll expand a youngster’s imagination and help them grow to become enligtened and interesting adults in the way reading can!

    And, personally, I can’t wait for all your books to be released.

  7. I’ve never stooped to reading a professional journal, and I have to say, I wouldn’t even if fries were on the line. The other stuff though, I can totally relate!

    I just found you guys, but already I’m excited to read your books!

  8. I laughed when you said you read shampoo bottles. I understand your compulsion because I share it. I read everything everywhere. I’ve been reading since I was four and I can’t stop. I also had this weird fixation on different kinds of pens. I would stand in the stationary store fondling them until I found the perfect one. Sick, I know.

    I can’t wait till your books come out. I loved your dad’s comment. You’re lucky, he sounds incredibly proud.

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