Memoirs of a Summer Reading Dropout

I have a confession to make.

As a child, every year, I signed up for the Summer Reading Program at my town’s library.

I wrote my name on the contract. I received my little chart or check list or fill-in-the-blank card. I checked out a stack of books.

And I never got further than half-way through the chart. Never. Ever.

Why?

Part of it could be lack of follow through. I was the type of child who would start something with a great frenzy of enthusiasm but then get distracted after a few weeks.

It could have been the lure of the pool, where my friends hung out daily, smelling of chlorine and Jays Potato chips.

But the largest fault, I believe, lay with the library’s mystery section. You see, I could never get enough of them. I would have a historical fiction book in my hands, or a required biography or science fiction, when I’d spy a title like “The Hidden Staircase Mystery” or “The Clue of Black Lake” and I’d be gone. The biography was tossed aside and I’d be ten pages into the mystery before The Life Of Benjamin Franklin hit the carpet. Before I knew it, poor Mr. Franklin was propping up a table leg while I was walking out the door with a stack of spine-tinglers.

Did I have a narrow reading interest?  Yes.

Did reading only mysteries limit my vocabulary? Probably.

Did all those mysteries make my reading life suffer? Not necessarily.

While I am a big fan of library reading programs as a parent (yes, my kids all completed them!) and I am in favor of introducing young readers to different genres of writing, I also know, as a reader, there is no better feeling than being chest-deep in a book you just looooove. I read every Nancy Drew I could afford or borrow. I checked out every book in the library mystery section. Reading became something I did, a lot. It became a habit. I would forgo the pool. I would not answer the phone. I would pretend I was sick, all to finish my current book. Those little mysteries made me into the reader I am today.

When my first born started eating pureed food, I gave her pretty standard fare – pears, peaches, green beans – whatever we happened to be eating. But on the store shelves, I’d see jars of sweet potatoes and beets and prunes and I worried that I wasn’t giving her enough variety. I brought this up to my pediatrician who shrugged and said, “Some kids in other countries eat the same food every day. And they grow just fine.” My daughter grew up healthy and strong. In fact, she now towers over me. She also eats a wide variety of foods now that she has matured.

The same is true for my reading. Though I grew up on a diet of straight mysteries, I now enjoy a variety of books, and enjoy reading across the genres. I became a Reader.

A reader who just may, one day, actually finish a summer reading program.

Beverly Patt has just finished writing the first draft of her third historical fiction novel – which also contains a mysterious twist, to satisfy the young reader still inside.   Visit her at www.beverlypatt.com.

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