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451 October 2, 2006

Posted by marymac in Celebrate!, I'm so deep.

Family legend has it that I learned to read when I was three years old. I don’t know how accurate the story is (Mom and Dad aren’t the most reliable sources), but I definitely don’t remember learning — no a-ha moment that I can recall when those squiggles on the page suddenly became letters and words — and I definitely was reading before I started school. So three’s as good an age as any.

(This was long before the days of Make Your Baby A Geeen-yus videos, of course — Dad read to me when he got home from work in the evenings and Mom plunked me down in front of educational television* during the day and somehow it just happened.)

I’ve since discovered that knowing how to read at such a young age isn’t that uncommon, but it was a Big Deal in our house and my big parlor trick when company came over. And when the well-meaning but slightly misguided folks from the school system showed up one day to make sure I’d be able to handle kindergarten in spite of the hardship of coming from a bilingual home, they acted like it was downright miraculous.

Misguided School System Folks made me read out loud to them from a McCall’s or Redbook or some such thing one of them had in her car because she thought that I’d just memorized all of the kids’ books in the house. Little did she know that my parents didn’t believe in doing things for children that they were capable of doing for themselves. (I was also designated read-alouder for my little brother; The Parents have always been all about the delegating.)

And once I finally hit the age of majority for a library card (you had to be five, no matter what) I was set free in the stacks to read whatever took my fancy. (Okay, it was the stacks in the children’s section, but still….)

Now, maybe being left alone to read whatever I wanted wasn’t always the best idea — I scared the hell out of myself and ended up with insomnia when I finished Lord of the Flies late one night, for instance. And it might have helped to be a little older than eight or nine when I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (eventually, kids in my school had to have a note saying their moms would discuss Margaret with them or something in order to take it out of the library — I missed that, fortunately). It did mean, on the other hand, that I had no idea that anybody ever tried to stop people from reading certain books until the day a book-recommending teacher or librarian handed me a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Okay, maybe I was a particularly naive kid, too. Whatever.

Due to… erm… stuff, I kind of didn’t post for Banned Books Week during Banned Books Week. The cool thing about books, though, is that you can read them whenever you want to — provided you can get your hands on them, of course. Read ’em, love ’em, pass ’em on (my first gift to my infant nephew included a copy of In The Night Kitchen — number 25 on the list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 – 2000**). And hug a librarian, because they are most often our first line of defense against those who want to take away our intellectual freedom (ask first, though — some people don’t like to be touched without permission).

*And by this I mean television that was actually educational, like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Electric Company, and not some product tie-in cartoon that the network labels “educational” because one character learns a two-second lesson about how it’s good to share your toys and that somehow meets part of their required hours of “educational” programming.

**Challenged as in people tried to have them removed from a curriculum or library. The American Library Association website says that most challenges are unsuccessful. (Yay!)

Special Note: The “I Love Banned Books” badge in my sidebar was made by jovial_cynic at newprotest.org. (That’s a link to the Banned Books Week post on the blog, but you should keep reading once you get there.) The badge is linked to the ALA’s Banned Books Week site because a) they said it was okay and 2) while their website is confusing, it’s a little more obvious what’s going on if you click the badge without reading this post. (I hope I did the linking right — I’m so conscious of not hotlinking that it’s hard to remember how to do it even when I have permission.)



1. Valerie - October 2, 2006

Maurice Sendak is being banned now?!? The banned book list does make a good reading list, though. 🙂

I was the designated reader to my younger sister, too.

2. Laura - October 2, 2006

some of your links are working–but that didn’t stop me from finding where you were trying to direct me.

The list of challenged books was interesting, particularly because many of the books were ones that were required reading at my junior high and high school. I guess Iowans are rather open-minded (or at least my langugage arts teachers were).

3. Blondie - October 2, 2006

Ahh, my first library card. We were allowed to have one before age 5, but you had to be able to write your name small enough for it to fit on the card. I remember being truly pissed that I couldn’t write that small.

Dagwood read to his younger brother, but he typically changed the words so they read “Dagwood’s Brother is stupid.”

Lord of the Flies didn’t give me insomnia, but it sure as hell depressed me. I read it at a summer camp where I had no friends. I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore…

4. marymac - October 2, 2006

They’ve been banning Sendak for a while, actually. (There’s a naked baby weenie in In The Night Kitchen — bad, bad, bad, don’t you know!)

Thanks for pointing out the busted links, Laura — two of them were me being durrr with the HTML (you can teach me to read, but you can’t make me remember how), but the other one was the ALA being weird with the URL.

My brother actually preferred sitcom reruns and cartoons to books, so I was off the hook pretty early on.

5. jovial_cynic - October 2, 2006

hey marymac – you’ve got the attribution set to my main site, which is fine, but it might make more sense if you point it to the actual post that talks about the banner.

6. jovial_cynic - October 2, 2006

Incidentally, my mother tells me that I learned to read when I was 3 as well. First book: Stan and Jan Berenstain’s Inside Outside Upside Down.

7. Susann - October 3, 2006

Banned books? I don’t think we have those over here.
I had my first library card at age 3 and recently found the booklet in which they noted which books you took home. I think I can say that I read each and every book from the children’s section from the library in the little town we lived in.
These days they try to get children back to reading by making tours of the library and giving them a book at the end of the tour.

8. Karen - October 3, 2006

I also learned to read when I was 3 and had people question whether I had memorize the books and was given random material to read to prove that I did actually read. I must have been about 5 when I got my first library card.

I hope when Danny’s older he and I can check out the books on the banned list together… 🙂

9. Theresa - October 4, 2006

Theresa will dutifully go hug her librarian and, since said librarian is Norwegian, will probably scare the living BEJEEZUS out of her.

The things you get me into. 😀

10. mtwelovett - October 6, 2006

Books and Librarians are good. We should all befriend them both. I like giving my niece and nephew books too, since I don’t know how much either of their parents read. (My brother at least, I know doesn’t read a lot on his own for pleasure, not sure about his wife, but I think they do read to the kids.)

11. kathy - October 11, 2006

The Lord of the Flies… I remember not speaking at all for a bit longer than a week after I read that. I’m not sure which was worse to me, that the kids were just insanely cruel, or that there were no adults around to save them.
I’m not sure if this is on the list, since I haven’t eyed it yet, but Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a magnificent story.
In conclusion, please buy my yarn.

12. veritas - October 15, 2006

wooot! i love the ALA. despite not being american or anything. i really, really love them. they do amazing work. i currently have quite an interest in the banned book week – there are a lot of books that i studied for my teen lesbian thesis i never finished in there. like ‘annie on my mind.’ and i have an abiding passion for judy blume.

this is one of the many reasons i want to be a libernarian when i grow up. (?if?)

did you see the ‘banned book week’ bracelet? how cool is that!!! it has cap’in underpants on it! and ‘annie on my mind’ . everyone should read annie on my mind. nancy garden is my hero.

((hugs)) i miss you, MM. ::blows kisses:::

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