I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My life as a reader

View taken on last Thursday's hike
This picture has nothing to do with the theme of today's post, but I always like to start it out with some eye candy. I actually took this photograph to capture the pretty flowers in the foreground, but they are washed out, and the vistas in the background dominate the scene anyway. I didn't see the view when I took it, really I didn't, so it was a surprise when I examined my pictures later.

What got me thinking about how important reading has been to my life was a chance encounter with my neighbor yesterday. I had just picked up a book from the library that I'd been waiting for. When I first put it on hold there were more than twenty people in front of me in line, so it took months before it finally came up. I'm a fan of Mary Roach's books, having read all of her previous ones, and this latest one is called Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. When I walked out to show the book to three of my neighbors, who were chatting while one was watering her porch garden, they were all very interested in it, except for Carol. She said, "Oh, I don't read." Both Lynn and I are voracious readers, so it surprised me to learn that one of my dear friends isn't interested in reading for its own sake. She said she's an article kind of gal. And then it occurred to me that I had never seen any books in her apartment.

I remember learning to read as a child. Remember the Dick and Jane books? They were the very first books I ever read, and I still remember them with real fondness. I have an ancient memory of tracing the word on the page and sounding it out, and suddenly realizing I could read it! That link takes you to a Rare Book Exhibition description of the history of those books. To think that there are people who have never heard of them, while they are essential to me.
Sample pages of Dick and Jane reader
In this era of being able to pull up pictures and descriptions of almost anything, I found these pages from a Dick and Jane reader to share. It illustrates how I was taught me to read by using simple, repetitive phrases, and because I smiled at the wringer washing machine that Mother is using. Yes, it was a long time ago, all right.

My parents had bought a multi-volume set of books called Childcraft when I was little, and my sister and I would pore over them and once we could read them, we read stories and poems to each other. We share some wonderful memories of those books, and we can still recite some of the poems back to each other, to this day, more than half a century later. Do you remember who Dilliki Dolliki Dinah is? Not long ago, Norma Jean and I recited this one to each other. What memories surfaced from that one: A Ballad of China.

I wish I could say that I was a fan of the Nancy Drew mystery stories, which many of my compatriots read, but I didn't read them as a child. Instead, I loved comic books, especially Little Lulu. I remember the joy of getting a new book and reading it over and over. When I think back to identify the first real book I ever read on my own, nothing comes to mind. Apparently there was nothing special enough about it to capture the memory for easy retrieval. I'm sure I was assigned books to read in school, but they are lost to me today.

Daddy was a science fiction buff, and as a teenager I remember him giving me several classics to read, and I will never forget the excitement of learning about worlds beyond our own, and sagas of long journeys across empty space to new planets. Mama was always a voracious reader, but when I was young I don't remember her sharing any of her books with me. My memories of her were usually with knitting in her lap, rather than books. I know she read plenty of them, though, because when she went to the library she would bring back a heavy box of books and managed to read every one.

Once I graduated from high school, my very first paid employment was as an assistant to the librarian at the base library. It was my job to return books to their shelves when they were returned by patrons. This library used the Dewey Decimal System, and I had to become familiar with it so I could find the appropriate stacks. It's an interesting system and is still in use today. In fact, the library here in Bellingham uses it, and distant memories sometimes emerge when I'm roaming the library shelves.

And then in 1979 when I went to work for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, I was fortunate to become the assistant to Mickey Glantz, who mentored me from lowly secretary to a salaried writer/editor, over the course of thirty years. I helped him with every aspect of book publishing. Over the years we published more than a dozen books, mostly volumes of edited papers from scientists. It may seem curious to some people, but one of my favorite things to do was to create an index at the end, containing names and topics that would be of interest to the reader. Not only did it give me the opportunity for one more detailed read, giving me a chance to catch errors, I also enjoyed the task. A scientific book is immeasurably enhanced by a good index.

And now, here I am in my retirement years, and fortunately for me, the world has evolved enough so that it's possible for me to keep my hand in the publishing world through my blogs. Being a creature of habit, my Sunday morning always begins with this post, and I usually have a topic in mind before I start, but it's fun to just let whatever is on my mind come to the surface. Once I've got a first draft on the page, I'll read it over and make adjustments, usually additions and deletions as my mind goes off in another direction than where I originally intended to go.

Once I finish Mary Roach's book, I have four more standing by, waiting for me to give them my attention. Two are from the library, and two are ones I purchased at our local independent bookstore. Oh, and I have two more on my Kindle that I downloaded because they caught my eye for some reason or another. Recently I've gotten interested in reading memoirs and just finished one by Liz Murray, about her journey from being a homeless teenager to Harvard graduate. There is an entire universe to discover out there, through books. I cannot imagine my life as a non-reader.

It reminds me of the importance of taking care of my eyesight, which gives me the opportunity to read. When I spend too long in front of the computer, or staring at the written page, my eyes get blurry and need some time to recover. That is when something like an all-day-long hike comes in handy. I look out at the vistas, such as you see in that first picture, and gaze at the beauty all around me. And I'm in the company of other like-minded elders, who enrich my life with their adventures and memories, as well.

Yes, life is pretty good right now. And once I finish this post and publish it, I'll hop out of bed and make my way to the coffee shop. I've got a 9:00am yoga class, which I look forward to all week, and then I'll enjoy the rest of my day until I fall into bed. With a book, of course.

Until we meet again next week, I hope you find at least one good book to keep you company. Be well and don't forget to give yourself some appreciation. You deserve it; we all do.


gigihawaii said...

I used to be a voracious reader as a child and as an adult, but lately, I have not been interested in books. David and I prefer to google topics on the computer to keep informed, but other than that, no books.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I loved the Dick and Jane books...and Spot and Fluffy ...being an animal person I recall them too! I cannot imagine life without reading and books. I hope you have a wonderful week:)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Please accept my typo mistakes lately as my vision sure is weaker now. I share your passion for reading and started off in German till age 8 and then in Canada I learned Engjish reading those very readers you refered to in my first year here in 1954. I also became a very avid reader and read every book that came to our school library and I visited our public library often too. But I was also made to keep alive my first language so was reading German authors. Then in high school my love for Frencg was added to,that. I studied all three at university along with music physical education and world religions . I became a fluent reader in all htree languages for years but have to restrict myself to preserve what sight is left. I taught those languages and instrumental music as a teacher for 25 years.
I do get Kindle books but not many. I think Buddy needs me around so I limit myself a lot for his sake too.
I think the two of us may benefit from yoga as we are both too inactive on a daily basis. We do walk but we need more.
May your weeks continue to be full of life as you love it.

Gigi said...

I kinda remember Dick & Jane and most definitely remember Nancy Drew! I am also a voracious reader and don't really understand those who "don't read books" - I can only assume they came from a home where reading wasn't an active pursuit. Growing up both of my parents read to me and own their own during down times. In my house, I read to Man-Child constantly and he never saw me without a new book - turns out he is also a voracious reader.

Have a great week, DJan!

Rian said...

I too know many people who aren't interested in reading. Can't imagine it myself. I can't get enough, always have a book with me, and am at a loss when one isn't available (which doesn't happen often). Don't think DH would recognize me without a book in my hand. It may be a cliche, but reading opens worlds and brings other people's worlds into my life.

I guess blogging does this also... but in a different way. As a child, I do remember Dick and Jane, but my favorite book was Uncle Wiggley. Then I became hooked on The Black Stallion Series. Now my taste is quite eclectic, although I think it leans towards mysteries and historical fiction.

And yes, the importance of taking care of our eyes is not lost on me either.

Carole said...

Oh DJan, you have stirred up a lot of wonderful memories for me! I remember with delight the joy of realizing that I knew how to read! I remember the Dick and Jane books very well. Once I realized I knew how to read, I could not get enough of it. I have fond memories of my dad reading to us, and I would follow along as he read. He loved to tease, and one of his favorite things was to turn the book upside down and start reading it to us.

I remember the Weekly Reader, and during the summer sending in my coins (50 cents I think) to continue receiving it all summer long. And Highlights for Children; what a great, fun magazine for children to embrace and enjoy reading. I enjoyed Nancy Drew, and I also liked the Box Car Children.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane :-) Love the photo too!

Red said...

I always knew you were a reader, but this post explains how one becomes a reader and why. Obviously your parents were super mentors for you. I remember Dick and jane and the pride I had of being able to read independently. The first book I remember that I read independently was Planes for Bob and Andy. I read this book many times. Now I'd like to read more but too many other things get in the way. I always watch what you recommend and I've read some of them.

Marie Smith said...

I read recently that audio books outsold e-books and regular books. People listen to them in their cars during long commutes. I have never taken to the audio books though my husband listens to them all the time. I much prefer the book in hand to e-books too, though e-books are great for travel.

I remember the instant I leatned to read. It was as if a light went on in my head and it has shone brightly all these years.

Great memory. Thank you.

The Furry Gnome said...

The books I remember are the Thornton Burgess series, The Adventures of Sammy Jay and all the rest of them! At first my dad read them to me, but soon I learned to read them myself.

Rhapsody said...

I read a lot. so much so that i seldom turn on my television.
thus far i have read 64 books and currently reading 5 books:
*Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain: The Practice of Informed Touch
by Donna Finando
*Gemstone Reflexology by Nora Kircher
*Tuning the Human Biofield: Healing with Vibrational Sound Therapy by Eileen Day McKusick
*F*ck Feelings by Michael Bennett
*Beyond Willpower by Alexander Loyd

I remember those books as well as Jack & Jill

Have a blessed week

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Today's post brings back some great memories of the Hardy Boys books. The House on the Cliff and The Tower Treasure were a couple of my favorites. I can remember getting into those books and, not wanting to stop reading, using a little flashlight in bed ... I was up way past bedtime! :-) Did you ever do that? I simply cannot imagine a life without reading. Now, I do really like the eye candy to start today's post. You are an inspiration to go on those hikes! And thank you for another fine post on Eye on the Edge. Wishing you a fine week ahead!

Linda Reeder said...

I don't remember reading much as a young child, but I must have. We did not have many books in our house - no money for books - and I don't remember being read to by my parents - too many kids - but I sure do remember being read to by my teachers. That was always my favorite part of the school day.
At some point we began going to the library in the summer, and when I wasn't picking crops you could find me lost in a book.
Nowadays I spend more time reading editorials and articles and blog posts and Facebook links than I do books, and watching TV, but I do always have a book in progress, which I get to at least at bedtime if not during the day.

Friko said...

All my life, childhood as well as adulthood, books have been my lifeblood, and never more so than when times were hard. I’ve often escaped into them when the daily grind got too much or when other kinds of distraction were hard to come by.

I even feel disloyal when I am reading something I don’t like much and it’s not at all easy for me to put it aside partly unread. Perhaps that’s something I need to learn, because there’s not that much reading time left.

Tabor said...

I have a nine-year-old granddaughter coming for a week who has told me she does not like to read. It is like her saying she does not like candy. She is a reasonably good reader, so now I am looking for stories to capture her heart and mind and see if I can change this!

Kailani said...

I get more stalled on books now. I'm not sure if it's because I'm into book 4 of a series, or it's a reaction to reading only on Kindles for many years now, but due to the font changability of a Kindle I'd never go back to 'regular' books. Ah well. AT least I have a hubby now who likes to read too, unlike the previous one who would make me feel guilty for reading. :: rolls eyes ::

C-ingspots said...

Oh my yes, I've always enjoyed reading! Can't imagine life without books either...don't remember Dick and Jane, we had Tom and Susan. Same deal. We used to have Scholastic Book clubs in elementary school where occasionally you could order books and they were amazing. That was just the best - getting books of my very own. I remember Uncle Remus as very early reading, and Nancy Drew books, Hardy Boys mysteries and so many more. I enjoy all kinds of books nowadays, ranging from historical fiction, to mystery, biographies, all kinds. I hope you have a wonderful week and make some memories! That picture you took is so beautiful - I'd love to go hiking with you!

C-ingspots said...

And the Black Stallion books! How could I forget those? SO emotional for me!! Thanks for your comments on my blog - I really appreciate them! Bet I could get you on a horse...

Rita said...

I remember the Dick and Jane books! That's how I learned to read, too. I didn't read Nancy Drew, either--funny because I now enjoy mystery and detective books but I had no interest in them as a child. I read anything with animals in it--all the books about wild horses and dogs and wolves. I read books on nature and science and space. They were considered the "boy" books, but I didn't care.

When I look back my reading has gone in cycles. I have years where I go through very few books and years where I am devouring them. I do think that having Netflix and the internet has put me into a stretch of very few books years--LOL! But I always have at least one book going...even if it takes me months to read it. ;)

I have a hard time comprehending anyone not liking to read, either. I am so glad that Ian already loves books and I hope he retains that all his life. The first thing is pictures and I remember his fresh delight at recognizing kitties on the page when they have two at home. Yes, I remember Dick and Jane. :) :)

Arkansas Patti said...

I share your love for reading. Very early some of my dearest moments were spent in my Mom's bed while she read to my brother and I on either side of her every evening. I loved the wondrous places the printed page and her animated voice could take us. Often we lived in the country but the bookmobile was the highlight of my summers once I learned to read. I so looked forward to those days when it pulled into the clubhouse parking lot. Day times were for playing. Rainy days and evenings were for reading.
Today my Kindle is my friend. I have over a thousand books stored to-be-read and polish off about 65 a year. Not a fast reader but a steady one. Kindle is in my mind the greatest invention since the bookmobile.

Keicha Christiansen said...

What wonderful memories! I too grew up reading the Dick & Jane books. I think they were some that had been my mom's when she was a child. I've always loved reading. Like you, I can't imagine a life without books and reading. When I was young my mom used to insist that I put down my book and go spend a couple of hours outside playing! I was a total bookworm.

Being a librarian has always been my dream job. I was an aide to the school librarian in the 6th grade and learned the Dewey Decimal system. Seeing it still in use at my public library always makes me feel a little nostalgic.

Thanks for the great post. Thank you for reminding me of the many books I've read and loved through the years.

Sally Wessely said...

I so enjoyed reading this. I have been pondering a post on reading myself if I ever get it written. Reading is such a huge part of my life. I read every single day, and I am sure I have done so since I first fell in love with reading when I got that Dick and Jane and Sally book in first grade. I can't imagine life without reading.

I've had a lot of trouble with my eyes since I had cataract surgery in April and May, and prior to that. I've stayed away from the computer and even my iPad for reading. I no longer read on my Kindle or on my iPad when I read books. I've gone back to reading real books because they are easier on my eyes. I haven't blogged because of my eyes. I save my eyes for serious reading because I could not live without that.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"There is an entire universe to discover out there, through books. I cannot imagine my life as a non-reader."

I'm amazed at those who don't read. At those who depend on TV or radio for news. At those who tell me they don't have time to read yet describe television show after television show to me while telling me how out of touch I am in the world. Am I? Since I don't watch the Bachelor or what dress to buy or I'm 15 and didn't know I was pregnant am I really the one who is out of touch?

I digress. I love books. Are you on Goodreads?

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

A life without books would be vastly less rich. I can't even imagine it!

Elizabeth P said...

I just had to pop over to say Hi after reading your comment over at A Brit in Tennessee's blog re Oliver... "cat yoga" I had to laugh out loud as that is just what my kitty is doing in this heat as well!

I took a little browse around and absolutely love your blog! Oh how you took me back in time with those Dick and Jane readers, and yes that washing machine too! How on earth did I get to be this age so fast? How much the world has changed in that snip of time!
Looking forward to reading more on your blog...
Hugs for now from a new friend,
Beth P
Harrisville, New Hampshire

Glenda Council Beall said...

The Book of Knowledge and Wonder, A Memoir by Steven Harvey. This is a wonderful memoir. Steven Harvey, a retired professor of English, decided to write about his mother who killed herself when Steven was 11 years old. He hardly knew her, but his grandmother had kept all her daughters letters from the time she went off to college. He had never read them, but when he decided to read them, he decided to write this book which is beautiful and not sad, but touching as he finds the mother he never knew.
Like you, I was a reader and lost myself in fiction from the time I was old enough to read Black Stallion books and anything about horses. I have always loved books and my house is running over with books. I really enjoyed this post, as usual.