Read, Baby, Read....
As a child I was sick a lot, and to pass the time I read everything I could get my hands on. I especially enjoyed novels and adventure stories about children my age. My father was a reader, too, my mother when she had time. I devoured the daily newspaper, the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Reader's Digest and more. Before TV, this was as reality as it got.
By my teens, I was reading heavy stuff; autobiographies of almost anyone, scientific history and research, classics, even opera librettos. But I also had a terrible weakness for novels... adventure novels, historical, mysteries, science fiction and romances. I still do - reading several a week.
Once in 9th grade, our teacher read out loud over a period of weeks the novel Ethan Frome, a distressing tale of a married couple, the wife an invalid whose attractive sister comes to help care for her. The inevitable happens. While nothing explicit is detailed, Ethan and the sister sneak out to take a sled ride down a steep hill late at night, crash into a tree and are disabled for life. The wife arises from her sickbed and cares for them both ever after.
I cannot say I'm sorry she read it to us... although I'm not convinced it was appropriate for ninth graders in general. It did open my mind to desperation and determination in the human spirit. Afterwards, the teacher asked us each to read a book at home and write a book report. Reading at the time an episode of "Little House on the Prairie", one of the later in the series, I wrote my report on that book immediately. The teacher scolded me in front of the whole class about my "infantile" choice of subject matter. I'll have to say I think it was healthier fare than Andersonville and some of Dostoevsky's novels, which I almost wish I had never read. And I couldn't very well write it on The Canterbury Tales, which I was reading little by little in the Public Library (it couldn't be checked out). I was pretty mortified at my public dressing down, but my embarrassment partly turned to annoyance when it took a while for everyone else to turn in their reports, and a large percentage of them took their data from the short comic-book versions.
Decades ago we decided that our house was overrun with books, and gave them to the library, Goodwill and the County Jail. We probably have taken more books out of Dade County library than any one other family. Sometimes we can't find a book we want, buy it, and then after we've all read it to our satisfaction, donate it to the library or the Veterans' Hospital.
Recently I found a great author of romance novels, not easy to do since the library stocks all her books in paperback and doesn't catalog them. Her name is Melanie Schuster . Her novels aren't fluff, they have a plot, a moral, are wonderful entertainment, and well written. They demonstrate the very best in the romance genre. I can recommend her books highly, and not only to young people of color but to everyone who enjoys a great romance.
I'd like to encourage all parents, grandparents and other caregivers to start taking children to the public library and buying them books, even before they start to read. Get cloth picture books, and give them a cuddle as they "read" the pictures. When they're older, let them pick out a book or two at a bookstore or library with lots of pictures, at their age level, and read it to them, over and over. Give them books for birthdays and Christmas. Turn off the TV which excites, and let them wind down with a story, which relaxes. Reading stimulates the imagination, awakens dreams and helps them set goals, almost none of which I believe is true for most TV. Keep on giving them books or magazines right through their teens, and not something you think they "should" read but something they would enjoy.
Second, when you have read a purchased book all you want, donate it to your Public Library, the Veteran's Hospital, or some organization that can use them. They all need our support.