When I was little, those t-shirts that said ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ were really popular. And when I think about my own childhood as a reader, I think the same principle applies. It took a very large community working together in order to shape me into the bookworm I was growing up and am today. So I feel like I have a great many people I need to say ‘thank you’ to for inspiring my love of books and stories.
The first has to be my father. He has always, always done his best to read me stories when I was little and surround me with books. He tells me stories all of the time about how I loved being read to and reading from a very young age. I’d want to hear the same, favourite stories again and again. The books he chose for me always veered towards the classics. I remember at one point when I was younger, of having four different copies of Heidi by Johanna Spyri. And we had copies of Black Beauty and A Little Princess laying around, together with Ramona Quimby books and Little House on the Prairie. But my dad would also tell me of the stories that he loved growing up, which is how I came to love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I’m sure that this early exposure and my dad’s enthusiasm for classic literature had a huge impact on what I wanted to get out of reading. I saw my dad reading quite a lot growing up, and when I was older, we’d discuss what we’d be reading. He’d always be telling me, ‘if you liked that, you’ll LOVE this…’ My dad loved really epic in scope books, like James Michener and James Clavell, and I’d borrow from the bookshelves in his room all the time. Sho-gun is still one of my favourite books. I’m really grateful to my dad, for encouraging my love of reading, engaging in it with me, and really leading by example.
Next up, I say ‘thank you’ to my favourite-ever teacher, Mr. Jacobson. He was my 2nd grade teacher and I’ve never had a more devoted and energetic teacher than him. And he and I adored each other. Second grade is really when I became more confident in myself and in my reading and that’s because of Mr. Jacobson. I loved books, but I didn’t know what to read. And so Mr. Jacobson was always on hand, offering his suggestions, discussing what I’ve read with me and answering all of my questions. There were so many questions that I wanted and needed the answers to and not once was Mr. Jacobson ever impatient with me. It was during this time, that I was given a copy of Charlotte’s Web by EB White, which is still one of my favourite books, and I associate that book always with Mr. J. He also subscribed to a copy of Highlights magazine, which I became slightly obsessed with. It was such a life-changing period of time for me, 2nd grade, and I really think that Mr. J was responsible in part for the person I am today. For his help and encouragement.
I always want to say thank you to Betty, a family friend, who, when we came to stay for Christmas one year, gifted me the entire series of the Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. That gift just went above and beyond anything I’d ever been given before then. Her second gift to me was allowing me to stay in my room for the next week and devour the entire collection of books without saying a word or telling me I needed to come out and eat. That series defines my childhood, and she gave them all to me. The generosity of it still brings me to tears.
I’d also like to say thank you collectively to my school librarians growing up. I love libraries and librarians. As a child, my family moved quite a lot and I always felt a little uncomfortable and nervous in new environments but my constant, wherever we went were libraries. I always felt comfortable in a library and my school librarians gave me the most amazing recommendations: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. The Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Eva by Peter Dickinson. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Hatchett by Gary Paulsen. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. With every fabulous recommendation and every great book I read, I felt more inspired and excited to visit new worlds or see things from a different perspective or time period. The great recommendations didn’t change when I moved into middle school and then high school. My high school librarian, Nicola, was the person who first put the Collected Works of Jane Austen into my hands and I will always be grateful for that.
I think, finally, the person I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to is my English teacher in my 8th grade class. I’m not sure how much control Mr. Caron had over the curriculum and which books he was allowed to teach, but that year we read some of my favourites. Pigman by Paul Zindel, The Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Green and The Outsiders by SE Hinton. Each book was really powerful for me, and as well as providing me with excellent reading material, Mr. Caron really taught me (and our entire class) to think more deeply about everything. To open my eyes and question things the things around me and in the world. Mr. Caron was a big inspiration to me and I love how passionate he was about the books that he taught.
My father, my school librarians, amazing family friends, inspiring teachers. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such amazing support and help growing up, fostering my love of reading. I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to all of them.
Thank you Michelle for an awesome guest post!
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