Monday, November 21, 2011

Remembering Kids' Books

I've mentioned before that I am something of a big reader, and that I always have been.

I wasn't kidding. I learned to read at a young age, and was tested to read at a high-school level when I was just in grade five. I've won several awards and contests for my reading and writing, including a special medal for reading in kindergarten. And I'm not telling you this to brag - well, okay, I'm bragging a little. (How many of you got reading awards when you were five, bitches?) But I'm mostly just highlighting that reading and writing is kind of my thing. We all have certain skills that are natural to us, or certain hobbies that mean a lot to us; reading is mine. I can't explain why I've always been good at it, or why it's always been a favourite pastime. It's like breathing to me. I don't even remember learning how - it's like I was born knowing - and I can't imagine my life without books. My range in book tastes is pretty diverse: political non-fiction, epic adventure stories, mysteries, celebrated Canadian literature, pop horror, postmodernism, and, finally, comic books all have a home on my bookshelf.

I doubt I'll ever read with the enthusiasm I did as a child, though. Not because I don't still experience the same joy from reading, but because I'll simply never have time to indulge like that again. Oh, sure, I read Ann-Marie MacDonald's  560-page Fall On Your Knees in about three days because I simply couldn't tear my eyes away. When I first got into Harry Potter, I whipped through the first six books in just over a month. I completely drowned in the post-apocalyptic world of Stephen King's The Stand and I was utterly mesmerized by Fight Club.

But when I was a kid? Oh, man, did I read. I've read an entire 400-page Babysitters Club Super Special in a single night, front-to-back, after laying down and cracking it open for some "light reading" before bedtime. As I've told you before, I actually used to sneak books down to dinner; I would try to discreetly hold them on my lap beneath the table and read quietly before inevitably getting caught and scolded for neglecting family time. (So you don't think my parents were assholes, I can assure you that with the frequency with which I tried to pull this off, they were absolutely justified in having a no-books-at-dinner rule. The fact that such a rule was even necessary should be pretty telling.)

About six or seven years ago, I was nostalgically reflecting on my past love of Goosebumps with some friends, and one such friend was surprised. We were both English majors at the time, and I guess he was dumbfounded that someone who had developped a taste for the finer works of literature had ever indulged in such devotion to pulp-fiction formulaic genre writing.

I was a little confused. I was a kid, after all. I wasn't reading the classic works of Shakespeare and Chaucer when I was eight. (And I still enjoy the pulpy stuff from time to time as an adult, too; I'm not ashamed to admit it!) And what followed was a debate: as a parent, should you encourage your children to read anything (age-appropriate material, of course) because the very fact that they're reading is good enough, or should you try to sculpt some taste and sophistication into their reading habits?

I've since brought this up with some fellow avid readers and tried to reopen the debate, but very little argument has ever actually occurred. It turns out that the general consensus is this:

Get your kids to fucking read. Whatever it takes.

I'm glad that my other friends agree with me. Sure, I wasn't devoted to classic kid-lit when I was young; I read cheesy paperback series pumped out weekly by lead authors and teams of ghostwriters, and I damn well loved it. Besides, loving the pop stuff doesn't prohibit a fondness for the true classics; I read Little Women more times than I could count before I hit double-digits, and used to fondly declare that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was far superior on paper to its movie form (however wonderfully Gene Wilder managed to bring the magic to life). Charlotte's Web was one of my all-time favourites. And I've certainly developped increasingly sophisticated tastes as I've aged, while still managing to enjoy a good mindless whodunnit from time to time. I love books. In whatever form they take.

So, in honour of children's books and the stories I loved as a kid, I hereby introduce Them Luicy Leaves #3: Remembering Kids' Books!

I hope you'll enjoy my list that is pulled from some of my fondest memories: those quiet, special hours I stole all to myself as a little girl by escaping in the honest magic of the written world. You might find some of your own favourites in this post; grab some leftover Halloween candy and join me on a path down memory lane.

No comments:

Post a Comment