Growing A Reader
by Margie Myers-Culver
To be honest I can’t think back to a time when I was not reading. On the other hand I do remember when I started to gobble up words as if I was starving. I read every printed thing I could out loud; cereal boxes at morning breakfast, road signs and billboards on family trips, and the adventures of Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot the dog and Puff the cat in our early readers at school. Those SRA color-coded boxes and their contents in our classroom were snack food. My appetite for reading grew and grew. To this day it’s never been satisfied.
The only books I still have from my childhood are The Tall Book Of Bible Stories retold by Katharine Gibson with illustrations by Ted Chaiko (Harper & Brothers, 1957), The Tall Book Of Christmas selected by Dorothy Hall Smith with pictures by Gertrude Elliott Espenscheid (Harper & Brothers, 1954), The Tall Book Of Make-Believe selected by Jane Werner with pictures by Garth Williams (Harper And Brothers, 1950) and The Tall Book Of Nursery Tales (Harper And Brothers, 1944) with pictures by Feodor Rojankovsky. Much of the text and many of the images are firmly placed in my memory; appetizers for every meal of subsequent words throughout my life.
Another family favorite set were the books written by Thornton Burgess titled The Adventures of… A variety of animal names, at least twenty, would follow the first three words in common; Buster Bear, Danny Meadow Mouse, Grandfather Frog, Jimmy Skunk, Prickly Porky or Reddy Fox. Without a doubt these stories were an entree; the reason for my love of the animal world. Fortunately my mom loved to take these characters and create new episodes spinning tales during our lunchtime trying to get us to eat before we had to walk back to school for the afternoon. One vivid hour of non-stop laughter still stands in my mind when Jimmy Skunk made life very stinky for someone else.
In fifth grade we had a truly inspirational teacher, Mrs. Urquhart, who used special crutches and a wheel chair as a result of polio. As a class we studied folklore focusing on Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. This unit went on for several weeks with us making life-size replications of the characters placing them around our classroom. We delved into the stories and their origins. As a result of this I went to storytelling school for two summers, taught storytelling for more than twenty years and still visit the 398.2 section in the public libraries when traveling and visiting new towns. There is no better meal than that linking us to oral and cultural traditions around the world.
My dad was a truly inventive, master-of-all-trades kind of guy. There wasn’t anything he could not fix or build. He worked in the same factory for forty-one years. At the end of the day in the evenings he would read historical fiction in HIS chair. He would share his favorite books with me especially the works, in the beginning, of Kenneth Roberts. I began with Arundel and read them all when I was still in high school. Certainly this is why I consider historical fiction comfort food.
These books and these people fed my reader’s soul, ingredients in a recipe for life-long reading. Due to their efforts and habits I will never be hungry. For this reason I will continue to do the same for others for as long as I can.
About the Author
Margie Myers-Culver was born in Lansing, Michigan growing up in the nearby community of Holt. For thirty-four years she was fortunate enough to be a certified teacher librarian in grades K-12 in Eaton Rapids Public Schools, Gaylord St. Mary Cathedral School, Haslett Public Schools and Charlevoix Public Schools. She began her blog, Librarian’s Quest, in 2008 but did not post regularly until 2010. She is active on Twitter at @Loveofxena
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!