Reading Under the Influence
My parents have always been avid readers and read to my sister and me each night when we were kids. I went on to become a rabid reader, but as much as I’d like to credit my parents and DNA for my book addiction, I never could have spiraled so out of control without the help of another (book) pusher: my elementary school librarian.
My librarian was the antithesis of any I had met before or since. Miss F. was a hippie, a folk singer, an actress, a book nut, a creative genius, and book marketer extraordinaire. This woman could, just by reading a few pages, turn a group of relatively sedate third graders into savage beasts, clawing and frothing as she raffled off a copy of The Stories Julian Tells.
She wore long, flowery skirts and clogs, used different voices when reading or telling stories, and played the guitar with finger picks, plucking out snappy ditties about the Dewey Decimal System, some hound dogs, or Halloween creatures. Despite her unorthodox approach and style, looking back it’s easy to see how forward-thinking Miss F. was. She was hyping multicultural literature long before any other schools. Her pre- and post-reading techniques were ahead of their time in the early 80s–things I went on to learn in my own college Kid Lit courses 15 years later.
She introduced me to Daniel Pinkwater, the Cam Jansen series, Beverly Cleary, and a book about a little girl who was always being mistaken for a little boy. This book was big news because there was a drawing of (gasp!) the boys’ bathroom–complete with a urinal–the stuff of legend when you’re an 8-year-old girl!
After I left grammar school in 1985, Miss F. moved on and authored a well-known book on Kid Lit and continued teaching on a university level. She’s since published several more books and travels the world lecturing as a Children’s Literature Consultant.
Her love of reading and positive influence has stayed with me for 30 years–from our first meeting back in 1979 when I was in kindergarten–until today. So, even though National Librarian Day isn’t until April 16th, I wanted to take time and thank my elementary school librarian for playing such an integral part in shaping my life as a reader and book blogger.