Halfway through summer, I realize, as the 15th appears on the calendar. And what has brought me enjoyment this summer? Unabashed reading. Just like summers of my childhood where I propped on an elbow reading for hours in my bed, I’ve allowed myself time to read. I’ve even joined the Adult Reading Program at the local library. A fun session with lunch and games that I didn’t deem corny. The celebration transported me to a highlight of summer remembered from long past that I always enjoyed as much as swimming and camp. Books, Books and more books.
Going to the library and reading the shelf of new books is as interesting to me as seeing a movie. All lined in a row, title and authors. My fingers graze across the spines of the books. I linger over a familiar title or an author. Always looking at what is new, what holds an interest for me, and what currently appears on the best-selling lists. It is the tactile touch, feeling the essence of story through the fingers and being hooked by the cover, author or title.
I have to admit I have an affinity for books. My mother inspired this love of reading. From grammar school on, I patiently filled out the author’s name and title of the book, usually in my squarish and precise printing. Mother checked the space that indicated I had read each and every book. Receiving my certificate for making my goal thrilled me. Now this summer, the list has grown long. I’ve another couple of weeks to read, as I am extending my reading time until August the 15th, when fall semester begins at UGA. Some books I have read for sheer enjoyment, others for subjects I am researching while still others represent a special interest. I contend there’s no better way to pass the summer. And yes, I am old fashioned and love the heft of a book in my hands, a receipt stuck between pages, and books stacked waiting to be read at the corner of the sofa. The pile has grown taller and I am subject to trip over it, always a reminder I’ve a lot of reading to do yet to reach my goal.
Always interested in education and our achievements, I view with dismay the somewhat dismal scores in language on the CRCT. I know and believe that reading is the only way to raise comprehensive scores. We can argue the benefit of computerized programming, but nothing achieves better results than spending a summer reading. The SAT says twenty-five books a year. So that’s only four for the summer. This summer The Brunswick News introduced a summer reading program that finds students responding in good number: “Keeping Your Summer Cool with Khari Reading Contest.” Enticing electronic gifts are the carrot, plus encouragement through a series of ads. One parent wrote to the editor, praising the program and citing what it had meant to her sixteen year old. At this point with a week to go- 402 books read with total raffle entries of 1,313, contestants vie as to who will win the prizes.
For a suggestion for books for grade school through middle, avail yourself of the Charleston Day School Reading List-http://www.charlestondayschool.org/summer-reading-list-2014 It comforts my soul that there are old favorites there yet. Just hope my grandchildren won’t shudder when I present it to them. My mother kept copies of a Wisconsin list of books all high school students should read. She also used a book report that in later years a former student would request so that he could use it with his children. To her, one didn’t grow unless one read; one didn’t write well unless one read; and one wasn’t educated unless one read widely.
I offer a challenge to parents. For children to see their parents reading offers what educators call an educational moment. Children reared in a literate home begin school with incredible advantages. So keep a book by your bed, go to the library and even read a book to your children during the summer.
When I think of the importance of visiting the library as a child, I know that the joy that reading brings me today was planted early. I held my mother’s hands and walked up the steps to the outstanding Neel Reed designed library in Griffin. A beautiful building now listed on the National Register. Later Mother’s friendship with the librarian would offer me my first job. I loved the feel of books in my hands and gladly shelved each one, tracing the number to be sure I was returning each to its appointed place. One shelf I was not allowed to work on was the top one in the closet in Miss Peerson’s office. Books housed on this shelf had to be requested. How I now wish that when I had the occasional chance that I would have read those titles. But in those days no good girl would even acknowledge the forbidden list. Do I imagine that God’s Little Acre was there? Erskine Caldwell, a Georgia author, entombed in darkness. Who else would have shared space with those denounced?
I am sure that Lady Chatterley’s Love found residence there. Vividly I remember reading that tome by the light of a flashlight while at camp as prohibited items have an enticement. Banned books, forbidden, our protestant ethic influenced many a choice of what should be banned. Therefore now, a day in September commemorates banned books. An interesting list, to peruse. Many are those that we now applaud.http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica. Having picked up and moved a year ago, I am rediscovering books that either did not sell at the estate sale or that I have never taken the time to read. How fun is that to think I am taking advantage of what I stockpiled a long time ago.
If you don’t have a reading list, you can find many a one on the Internet or in magazines. Starting in May, I began to see lists promoting summer reading. David Brooks in his column “Really Good Books, Part 1” in The New York Times (May 23, 2014) touted “A Collection of Essays” by George Orwell; “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy; ”Rationalism in Politics” by Michael Oakeshott; and “All The King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren. He notes that these and four others have been pivotal in his life.
A recent July-August mailing of the AARP Bulletin celebrates fifty years of “Hot Summer Reads.” The Group by Mary McCarthy heads the 1964 list and concludes with the 2013 offering of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/books/info-2014/2014-summer-books...
And for what I consider a great place for suggestions, don’t miss “The Oprah Magazine” list of the Books of Summer, July 2014. Sixteen pages to entice anyone to want to dedicate time to serious summer reading.”77 Great Reads for Bed, Beach & Beyond. And finally one more offering- http://www.oprah.com/book/Mama-Day-by-Gloria-Naylor?editors_pick_id... . The Editor’s pick of fifteen special ones. Sadly not enough time in the day or days left in the summer to score one hundred percent on all the suggestions. How enticing just to read the lists, an education in themselves. “The Beach Reading Canon” challenges me.
I plan to sit on the beach in the next month for a couple of days, let my toes inscribe the sand with all sort of drawings and just read. Think I’ll start with All the King’s Men, a book I have been meaning to read for years. And were you to need advisement on reading a book, I find nothing more enjoyable than Virginia Woolf’s “How Should One Read a Book?”http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/03/06/virginia-woolf-ho...
And in great Woolf style, she ends with an anecdote:
I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards- their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble- the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’
Give yourself the time to love reading this summer.