I’ll never forget a particular trip to the library. My mom heard about the summer reading program and off we went. It was quite the adventure! The Granada Hills Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library had just opened, and it was right next to Petit Park, another brand new facility. I walked out of the building (which at the time seemed huge) with my own library card and a stack of books that included Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates.
Carolina’s Courage is about a young girl who leaves her New Hampshire home to travel west with her family. They’re part of a wagon train, and Carolina’s most beloved possession is her china doll. Somewhere in the story she reluctantly trades it with a little Indian girl, and it’s that trade that leads to peace and safe passage for the entire wagon train.
Carolina’s Courage was the first “western” I ever read. I’m so glad my mom took me to the library that summer. At summer’s end I’d read 25 books, each noted in my little-girl block printing and acknowledged with a stick-on gold star. That first summer reading program led to many others, and I will be forever grateful to the librarians who made it such fun. I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder at the library. Same with Jack London . . . Later I moved on to Willa Cather’s My Antonia and O Pioneers.
Both of my grandmothers also encouraged my love of books. I was about ten years old when Nana Bylin bought me my first Black Stallion book. I read it fast, and then I read it again. Every week for the next few months, she had a new book waiting for me. When we finished the Black Stallion series, we launched into Nancy Drew. That was good for a year of reading!
My other grandmother played a different role in my love for books. She was a writer at heart. She never ventured into fiction, but she wrote wonderful letters. She lived about 400 miles away when I was in middle school, and we wrote weekly. I wish now she’d written her memories in a journal. I don’t have the details, but she and her family traveled to New Braunfels, Texas in a covered wagon.
The other individuals who encouraged me to read were elementary school teachers. My fifth grade teacher put Caddie Woodlawn into my hands and I loved it. Every week when we went to the school library, I found something new and intriguing. For a while, I was hooked on biographies. I discovered Sacajawea on the biography shelf and read it many times.
Has this blog jogged your memory? What books do you remember reading as a child? Do you remember the very first chapter book you ever read? Books have always been magical to me. They still are!