Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Judy Blume, Henry, and Me

a Tuesday morning with Henry

The other day while at my parents’ house, my Dad brought out some extra-large boxes full of books from my younger years. I’ve always been an avid reader, but when I went off to college to share a teeny tiny dorm room, my book collection had to stay behind to make room for a mini-fridge. In hindsight, my freshman fifteen probably would have appreciated the books rather than a place to keep beer cold but hey, what can ya do? Luckily my parents aren’t insane and instead of giving my half-ton of young adult literature to the Salvation Army, they boxed them up for safe keeping.

So on that day just last month, when the boxes came out of the garage clearly labeled “D’s Books,” my heart did a hop-skip-jump in my chest as I remembered all of the treasures that lay inside the cardboard containers. For me, reading was a huge part of everything from as far back as I can remember. Reading Rainbow, summer reading programs, Book It, and I even recall wanting to invite the head librarian, Doris, to my 8th birthday party. I never thought I was too cool to read and actually, I thought you were so not cool if you didn’t. I devoured books as quickly as I could, often finding myself in the middle of three or four at a time, and the sight of me teeter-tottering out of the library, books stacked high in my arms as my Mom helped lead me over to the car, was not uncommon. My young-adult literature obsession started with books like A Wrinkle in Time (still love it), worked through the Babysitter’s Club (I was totally a non-diabetic Stacey with a touch of Claudia and Kristy), and took hold in all things Judy Blume (my hero).

Judy really did it for me, and I found myself reading and re-reading her books every few months. I loved Deenie (hated Mrs. Fenner), couldn’t get enough of Tiger Eyes, cried right along as Linda aka “Blubber” was ostracized, and like many young girls, my most favorite was Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. There I was, a slightly awkward preteen living in a small, rural New Jersey town, quite naive to the world, learning all about first kisses and padding your bra, the weird classmate who might actually be cool and menstruation belts. Ah, the menstruation belts. Even now the chapters involving the belts and pads are still really strange. Looking back I remember being totally confused. I mean, I guess those people way back then had to use archaic contraptions like that…but now, holy shit. And “Teenage Softies”? Don’t even get me started.

But anyway, moving away from period talk and back to literature...later on when I was a high school English teacher I tried to explain the wonder of libraries and Judy Blume to my students during a book club unit.

Me: “I used to rush into the library straight to the YA section, snatching up any books that looked interesting. I judged by cover, by the back, by the first page and then I would find myself a corner and read the afternoon away. Judy Blume books were my favorite – she so got what it’s like to be a teenager. I can seriously still think back and remember reading some of her books for the first time. It was magical.”

Student: “Mrs. Hampton, first of all, you’re so funny (quick note: when students call you funny they mean really, really weird) but secondly, but do you know if you can get her books on my Kindle? The library is so freaking annoying and it smells bad.”

Me: “What smells bad? The library?! And don’t say ‘freaking’.”

Student: “Yes. The library. Books. They smell old and weird. I would rather just download to my Kindle and not even go there.”

Another student: “Seriously. Ugh, I hate the library, books do smell. Plus I feel like there’s no point to books now that they make movies into everything, you know? Kind of a waste of time.” (Most of the class nodded in agreement.)

And then… my heart broke into a million pieces. Seriously? My students didn’t like the library? I feel like who I am today, is because of a few things, two of them being the library and Judy Blume. Not that everyone has to love what I love, but to not even like the library a little? Shame of shames.

I think a lot about these kinds of things now that I’m a Mom. How can I convey a love of reading to our son Henry? In this world of instant gratification- 60-second downloaded books, interactive Facebook pages, and the 140-character share- everything is fast, fast, fast. Sitting down to read a 300-page book? No time, man, no time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a e-reader fan and I’m borderline obsessed with my Kindle. But I DO know the beauty and wonder of books, the excitement of the “new literature” section in the library, and the quiet joy felt passing time turning pages in a comfortable chair. Kids should have a favorite author, or a favorite book. They should at least be exposed to these things so that someday, years later, they don’t make up the 75% of a sophomore English class agreeing that books are indeed a waste of time.

So, it is my goal to make sure that Henry grows up knowing all about the wonder of the library (and maybe even Judy Blume, too). It’s my mission to make sure he’s never too cool for reading. If he is in a class of book-haters, perhaps he can be the Guy Montag in the room, the one to stand up and say, “No no no, you’ve got it all wrong." It’s my goal to expose him to libraries and story time, to make-believe and creativity via the written word. And later, if he doesn’t like it, fine. But at least I tried. And if that trying includes me making LeVar Burton a fixture in our home and downloading every Reading Rainbow episode in existence, or resurrecting a Book It of my very own, paying him in personal pan pizzas to read chapter books, so be it! This boy will read.

*This one of the many pieces I'll be re-sharing here over the next year. This originally published on Hello Giggles, but since I am not writing for them anymore, it's important to me to have all of my writing in one place. If this is the second time you've seen this, I hope you didn't mind too much! Thank you for reading!

33 comments:

  1. I absolutely love Judy Bloom. When I go home to my parents and see all her books lined up on my bookshelf in my room I love to just get lost in the pages again. Blubber is what got me hooked. Being an only child I found my play time with my friends in books. That really makes me sound like a bit of a loser doesnt it? I dont mean like imaginary friends but you know... I did have an imagination. Are you there God was another brilliant book of hers. This post has made me just want to go back home and start reading them all over again. Thank you :)

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  2. I also can't believe your students didn't like the smell of library. One of my favourite smells is when you flick through a book and smell the pages. It's quite sad how technology is taking over. Don't get me wrong it's totally cool but it makes me very nostalgic for simpler times. I dont want my children to miss out on the finer things. Henry is lucky to have a mother like yourself.

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  3. Oh my gosh, yes! My preschool was across the street from the biggest library around and we'd walk each day to it.
    My parents always instilled in me a love of reading. My mom doesn't remember what she reads very well so she doesn't really read, but my dad sure does.
    I read SO MUCH as a child but got a concussion as a teenager. With that came migraines and a few eye problems. But it's been a few years now and I can finally read more again. It's such a nice feeling!
    My husband reads a ton as well and it's important for us to give that to our son. I agree wholeheartedly with this post!

    One thing, though, I'd like to ask, if I could? How do you keep your son from acting up when it's time to leave? We're not so successful at it and our boy throws a tantrum every single time.
    Thanks!

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  4. Oh Yes, I lived in books. And still do! I remember fondly being off school with bad ankle and knee sprains and our librarian giving me an adult membership as I had "finished" the downstairs library. I was allowed 6 books at a time and I loved it. Because we didn't have much money for books I have become very obsessive about owning copies of everything I read. I like to buy all my old favourites too and then of course I have to read them because it is not right to own an unread book. I am determined to fight the kindle.

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  5. I absolutely agree! Growing up (and now come to think of it) I always carried a book or 3 with me and a trip to the library was the best. When I was a little kid we didn't have a great deal of money but Mum and Dad never said no to a book. I was so excited for the Kindle to come out but a bit reluctant too because there is nothing like the excitement of a fresh book. But now, I take my books however I can get them. Ebook, paperback, on my iPod, whatever! Gimme a book! My husband is the same and when we have kids I desperately hope we instil that love in them too. We're already the 'weird' aunt and uncle who only give books for Christmas and birthday presents.

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  6. Yes ! I also have a Kindle but still love to feel a book in my hands. I have started reading to my 4 month old grandson in hopes of making it "our thing".

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  7. I have yet to purchase a kindle or anything of that matter because frankly that is half the reason I love reading. The feeling of the actual book in my hands, the pages slipping through my fingers, and the smell. I love the smell of a book new or old. Oh these silly children are missing out.

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  8. Thank you for this post. I am a librarian and a mom and I LOVE the library. Kids today keep thinking the library is this stuffy old place where they can't have any fun and think of the books as old musty smelling things. When in fact most libraries are amazing places to be that are kid and teen friendly. I am trying to instill that love of the library in my kids and so far (they are 6,5 & 2) they love the place and think of it as their home. I often have to stop them from taking too many books out. Just keep doing what you're doing and Henry will one day thank you.

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  9. I always loved the library. I remember getting my first library card when I was 6 with my dad. I used to read TONS when I was in elementary school. I kind of waned during junior high and high school, but now, after getting my kindle, I'm back on a HUGE reading kick.

    I don't have kids, but was telling one of my friends to take hers to the library. She gave me the same excuse of the smell and she's rather go to Barnes & Noble. It made me kinda sad for her kiddos, cause I so loved going to the library as a kid. It was such a treat to get to go and pick out a book, and even read in the special nooks in the children's book section. I hope to pass on this love to my own kids one day.

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  10. I made a rare trip to a pizza hut the other day, and when my boyfriend and I saw the "book it!" sign, we both freaked out that it was still around.

    of course, the rest of the night was spent praising the book it! program.

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  11. Yes! That was my main thought when reading this. As a former teacher myself and momma to a little girl, I completely understand where you're coming from.

    When I was teaching 8th grade literature, I spoke to my principal about using real novels in place of the literature textbook. She was on board with my plan to opening my students up to the wonder of literature and not just the snippets included in a textbook. My favorite memory of that year is when my students told me they were studying the Holocaust in Social Studies and asked if we could read a novel on the same topic. I was elated and carefully chose a few for them to pick from. We even organized an "Anne Frank Day" (not a great name, I know), where the students wore socks instead of shoes, we turned off the lights, and no one was allowed to speak, so they could understand how difficult it must have been for Anne. I still have letters from students about how powerful that experience was for them.

    As we embark on my daughter's reading experience, we spend plenty of time at the library on the weekends. Most recently, we participated in a Scavenger Hunt they held, and we take home bags of books whenever possible. She is only 6 and is just starting to really read on her own, but I'm so happy that I can share the library and the magical world created by authors with her.

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  12. I mostly read on my iPad, only because I never liked the feel of book paper, for whatever reason. Don't get me wrong, I'll still pick up a book, and suck up my weird feelings toward book paper. I will still frequent the libarary though. I think that it's very important for kids to be involved with the library. Calista usually gets a few small books, and one chapter book every other week. My town actually just got a new library, the other one smelled of urine :( So it's all high tech and what not. Makes me happy. Yay libraries!

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  13. i laughed when i read that your students think libraries smell bad. i've always smelled books because i LOVE that musty old book smell. i wrote a post about it almost a year ago. smelling books takes me back. i'll even smell my son's books that he checks out from the library, and he gets so confused. :)

    http://delirious-rhapsody.blogspot.com/2011/10/do-you-smell-what-i-smell.html

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  14. i loooved judy's "just as long as we're together" and would read it every year or so from the time i was 12 to 20. 6 years later this post makes me want to get it out and read it again!

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  15. I loved "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret"! She updated the book to account for the updating of feminine products. I remember being so confused by those belts, and I read that book before anybody showed me what we actually use now. :) I have that book to thank for making me feel less alone. I love Judy Blume.:)

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  16. And I also wonder what message I am sending my children by doing all my writing online instead of for real print books! What does that say about where we read now? Something to ponder and maybe, just maybe, to change about my writing...

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  17. I was just explaining the Babysitter's Club to my fiancee earlier this week! It started with a retelling of my attempt to start my own babysitter's club (one meeting, no calls, total failure- but I had a pretty sweet Kid Kit) and ended with me explaining all of the characters in detail and wishing I'd never gotten rid of my collection. Books are best friends and provide companionship that movies never could. Kudos to you on making them an important part of your son's life. I will do the same with my children someday.

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  18. Judy Blume - Yes! What a nostalgia trip! Book page smell - one of my absolute faves. I'll never own a kindle.

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  19. I actually have a love for the smell of old books!! I always make sure I get used books myself so that way I can have that smell. I don't buy new books. haha.
    +Victoria+

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  20. I DO own a Kindle now, but I won't ever get rid of "real" books! I love everything about them.

    I took my love for books to a new level, by working at our college library during my undergraduate studies. I loved working there, studying there ... Heck, you pretty much knew you could find me there most of the time! Mmmm ... Just thinking about it brings the scent of dusty pages and spine glue to my nose. :)

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  21. I feel like I could have written this post! I was (and am...when I have the time) an avid reader and love the library. I make sure to read to my son every day and take him to story time even though he isn't quite 7 months old yet. I want him to love reading as much as I do. I think it's so sad when students hate to read. :(

    And Judy Blume rocked my world when I was a pre-teen!

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  22. i love this!!! we are so passionate about the library. we go every week and i started that when jonas, my oldest, was a baby. now, jonas is the one who runs loose picking and choosing which books to dive into next.

    and, as a personal note, i love the smell of the library ;) but i'm definitely a book nerd.

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  23. I felt the exact same way about reading when I was younger. I really wish I read more these days. I miss those days when I would spend hours on end doing nothing more than reading. Great post! xoxo

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  24. I love my Kindle, so easy to read and breastfeed. But... ahhhh the smell of a book, the touch of paper, nothing can replace that.

    http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/

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  25. I'm obsessed with the Kindle app on my Smartphone and I've got a e-reader too. My parents instilled a life long love of reading in me by making me join the library as soon as I was old enough and letting me choose my own books. And the heady rush I get when I go the village library (I'm in Blighty) it's like, books lots of them!

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  26. um yes yes yes - i was SO confused by all the period talk in "are you there God? It's me Margaret". Ha - I had forgotten all about it till just now. LOVED all of those books.

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  27. Yeah Danielle, we're the inbetween age. We remember the library with nostalgia but aren't too old for the kindle or whatever. It's weird. I still love them both but the germaphobe in me likes the e-reader better. Also I'm lazy and my library lends e-books through their website.

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  28. Oh I hear you, loud and clear! I have been reading to my little girl from the day she was born (not so long ago, she's only 13 weeks old). She loves to look at the bright colours as I read. I'm hoping that if I can make them as interesting as possible, she will come to know the love I feel for reading, myself. AND for the fabulous smell of old books!

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  29. I will ALWAYS heart the Library! The smell of books is the purest magic there is.

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  30. A library kid as well! Even though I had a wonderful group of girlfriends in Elementary school, I would spend my lunch breaks and before school time in a tiny window nook in the library. School book fairs? The same level of excitement as Christmas morning!

    One beautiful book that celebrates the love of a good bookstore and the physical properties of a book, is:

    "The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop" by Lewis Buzbee


    http://www.amazon.com/Yellow-Lighted-Bookshop-Memoir-History/dp/1555975100/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348154206&sr=1-1&keywords=the+yellow+lighted+bookshop

    Worth ordering the real thing, it's printed on the most beautiful creamy paper.

    :) K

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  31. I lurve books! And Judy Blume.. Tiger Eyes was my favourite. I have a copy of it even now, fab book. I used to go to the library all the time and hang out in my local independent bookstore as a teen.

    Now there are hardly any indie bookstores and, weirdly, I have to confess, I don't go to the library. I should do something about that!

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  32. I always loved books but my true love of the library developed at university. Sitting up on the mezzanine section, crawling along, head cocked sideways amongst the smelly dusty books, many published in 1920-1960. I always wished I could stop and read everything that caught my eye... not just the books that pertained to my essay :) I've actually gone back as an alumni to read some of these books... Just can't sign them out! ;)

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  33. This is such a wonderful post, Danielle. I love that sweet photo of Henry at the library. Sharing the love of books and reading is such an awesome thing. It makes me sad how bookstores are closing because of e-readers and how little I actually see teens pick up books anymore. I could not do without my endless pages to turn.

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