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.

12 Comments

  • At 2009.10.30 00:48, Hayden Tompkins said:

    For as much time as I spent at the library, I can’t remember a single librarian. Either at school or at the public ones!

    I think it’s really neat that she went on to help revolutionize the way educators interact with kids.
    .-= Hayden Tompkins´s last blog ..Make A Difference Today =-.

    • At 2009.10.30 07:36, Kathy said:

      Miss F. sounds like a gem! You were lucky to have known her.
      .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Review: Family Sentence =-.

      • At 2009.10.30 10:31, Steph said:

        That’s a great story, and you were certainly lucky! I remember loving my public school library, though the only books from that time that stand out are the Cam Jansen series and also Encyclopedia Brown. I also loved The Babysitters Club, but I owned those books and never borrowed them!

        • At 2009.10.30 12:41, Kristen said:

          I have a librarian I will always remember too. The great ones are so influential and wodnerful, aren’t they?
          .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Review: The Brandons by Angela Thirkell =-.

          • At 2009.10.30 12:43, Alita said:

            She sounds pretty amazing. You were lucky to have a librarian like her! The only librarians I can remember seemed to dislike children…
            .-= Alita´s last blog ..Book #37 – Nineteen Eighty-Four (final thoughts) =-.

            • At 2009.10.30 15:24, vivienne said:

              Wow -she sounds like a fabulous person to have known.
              .-= vivienne´s last blog ..Friday Finds =-.

              • At 2009.10.30 16:36, Meg said:

                Fantastic! I’m all for recognizing the people who have helped or inspired us . . . in fact, it’s pretty much the greatest thing you can do!

                Miss F. definitely sounds awesome and reminds me a little of my elementary school librarian, though she was certainly no hippie. Mrs. Benton was very prim and proper and reminded me of an aunt or grandmother, but obviously loved books so much. My school had an awesome reading program whereby if you read a certain number of books each month and turned in book reports — no prob for an overachiever like me — you earned “library mice,” these colorful cloth cut-outs of rodents.

                I know it probably sounds weird, but it was a Very Big Deal if you were called to the front of the class to get a mouse . . . or several mice, if you were really overzealous that month! I still remember the feeling of elation when my name was called and I got to choose a color! (You know I always went for pink.) I probably still have mine somewhere! 🙂 I’m a pack rat . . . pun intended 😀
                .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ =-.

                • At 2009.10.31 09:48, Beth F said:

                  You were definitely lucky to have a Ms F in your life. Even though you were raised in a reading family, it is a gift to have been exposed to other enthusiastic readers.
                  .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Weekend Cooking: Review: What to Cook . . . by Arthur Schwartz =-.

                  • At 2009.10.31 21:39, Lisa said:

                    Miss F. sounds great! My elementary librarians were unmemorable but I still remember that being my favorite place to be. I would rather have spent my recess time in the library. It’s wonderful that she’s gone on to lead such a productive life but what a loss for all of the young children that didn’t get from her what you got.
                    .-= Lisa´s last blog .."Heart West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier" =-.

                    • At 2009.11.01 23:00, Jenners said:

                      It sounds like you were incredibly lucky to have her as a teacher! And I sure wish you could “reveal” her identity and the books she wrote. She sounds so amazing!
                      .-= Jenners´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday: The Chosen by Chaim Potok =-.

                      • At 2009.11.02 01:44, Terresa Wellborn said:

                        Ahhhh (sniff). Reading this, I feel warmed. It is heartfelt, divine. Maybe because I’m a Children’s Librarian, too, and sat for many of my young years at the feet of librarians…Thank you for this brilliant post.
                        .-= Terresa Wellborn´s last blog ..A girl, a wife =-.

                        • At 2009.11.03 14:01, Sammy25 said:

                          I haven’t thought about Beverly Cleary books in ages!!!! What a treat to read this post and get the chance to revisit some of my fav childhood books! I credit my Mother with endowing me with my love of reading. She always read to me and my sister, I would always see her reading herself and it set a great example for me. Plus she worked part time in our community Library 🙂
                          .-= Sammy25´s last blog ..Sugar Rush =-.

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