When I was a kid, my mom had this crazy notion that instead of sitting around and watching cartoons on Saturday morning, the three of us should be out doing other stuff. We took swimming lessons (which was a miserable failure for both my sister and myself), I think I took some dance classes, we went out to breakfast sometimes. And, we'd go to the library. Looking back on it, I think this was probably a royal pain for my mom. My father would always stay home, so my mom would go out with the three of us - three small kids, and my brother was autistic - and she took us to the one place where we had to be quiet. Clearly, she thought it was important. My brother, being autistic, wasn't much of a reader. I don't really remember if he checked books out or not. But my sister and I sure did. Usually we went to the local branch of the library near our house - it was (and is) called the Loving Branch, and I think I used to mix it up with Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. That library was where I started reading chapter books.
Chapter books became special to me when I was very young. I learned how to read fairly early, thanks to my big sister's concern that I not go to school in Kindergarten without knowing how to read. So, by the time I got to first grade, I was ready to start reading chapter books. But, my first grade teacher had another idea. She didn't believe that any kids should be ahead of any other kid. So, when we had library time in school, we weren't supposed to check out chapter books. We were only supposed to check out the "easy reader" books. Well, one day I found a chapter book I wanted and I checked it out - and the teacher made me return it. My mom went through the roof! The teacher wouldn't budge on her rule though. So, my mom called the librarian. It turned out she also worked part-time as the Loving Branch! So, they worked out a deal where I could just check out chapter books after school, and my teacher just never had to know about it. My first chapter book was one she thought I would like. It was called The Saturdays, about four siblings who pooled their allowances so that each sibling could have a wonderful adventure with the money each week. I did love it. I read it many many times, and I kept visiting that librarian at the Loving Branch for years, borrowing Encyclopedia Brown, All of A Kind Family, and Betsy, Tacy & Tib books to my hearts content.
Some of you probably already know, but just in case, Micah has pointed out in this post that this is Banned Books Week. It is a sad thing to be kept from a book you want to read. While my reading hobby may have faded over time, my love for books hasn't. So, tonight, to celebrate Banned Books Week, I went to my new local public library and got myself a library card. And, while I was at, I checked out Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith . Its not on the list of "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books", but I hear its good and I want to read it. And that is what celebrating Banned Books Week is really about - not about reading the most shocking thing we can find, or being shocked by what other people find offensive, but celebrating our privilege to read what we want, when we want to read it.