One Saturday when I was about nine or ten years old I made an amazing discovery. There was a ballpark about a block and a half from my house, and as I was walking along the cracked sidewalk beside the bleachers, a large bus-like vehicle drove slowly down the street and parked just in front of me. It’s just a bus bringing a team to play on the field, I thought. Then the door opened and the tantalizing smell of old books and some other indescribable whiff of imagination and adventure wafted out. I knew that scent. That vehicle was a bookmobile! Once a month from as early as I can remember, my family had a library night. We would hunt through the house, each of us gathering up our five books from behind the couch or under the beds. Then we would clamber into the car and drive to the city library where we would each pick out another five books. We always finished the books long before the next month’s excursion. Yes, I knew that smell—it was the smell of the library, the aroma of magic!
For some reason, by design or destiny, my city neighborhood had been added to the bookmobile route. Every other Saturday the bookmobile would spend about a half hour parked adjacent to the ballpark. That first day I ran home for my library card and my siblings, and we sprinted back to fill our arms with books. In the following weeks, my sisters and I rounded up our friends and would be waiting on the dried grass next to the curb for the bookmobile to arrive.
I still remember the feeling—a mixture of hunger and delight—that would settle around me on the short walk home. Without the bookmobile visiting my neighborhood, it would have taken me a lot longer to discover the Chronicles of Narnia, books by Madeleine L’Engle, Lassie Come Home, and many other books that became my companions during those years.
So what I am wondering today is how our own children satiate their hunger for reading. I know reading has changed over the years, and in many ways for the better. Thanks to Harry Potter, we know children can maintain their interest and attention for hundreds of pages and several years. There are more children’s and young adult books available than ever before, and happily there are authors from all different backgrounds, including from an LDS background.
But reading has changed. Kids don’t have as much free time to lounge around with their noses in books anymore, or so it seems to me. The computer is a constant lure or distraction, and personal game-playing devices can quickly eat up any reading time. But there are the kids who still find time to smuggle a flashlight under the covers, or curl up with a book on the couch or in the closet.
I was so proud of my oldest son, Ben. He got his first part-time job over the summer washing dishes in a local restaurant. When he got his first real paycheck, the first thing he did was ask me to take him to the bank to get his own account. Then he cashed his check, put some into savings, and used the rest to buy a Kindle! Now I see him curled up on the couch reading Jane Eyre (for school) and some long epic fantasy trilogy for fun. I’m so glad to know reading is important to him.
But not all kids are the same. One of my other sons reads graphic novels almost exclusively — except for the Wimpy Kid books. And my middle son loves to listen to audio books. When do your kids read, and how do they get their books? I’m interested in all your ideas and memories of reading, new and old.