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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Addicted to reading

After Heidi, I couldn’t stop reading.  I couldn’t get enough words.  I became addicted in the third grade, and converted what I considered wasted time in class to reading time.   The time between writing one spelling word in a test and waiting for the next, I read another page in my book opened on the seat.  Mrs. Schultz knew what I was doing and never stopped me, although I was sent to the corner once for some other infraction, and my mother came into the room in some volunteer capacity.  As my back was to the room, I didn’t know until I got home that she knew I’d been bad.  At least I wasn’t in the closet with a bag over my head.  When we were in second grade, moving up, that was the word in the hall…hope you don’t get Mrs. Schultz, she puts you in the closet with a bag over your head.  We never knew anyone it happened to, but the rumored threat must have deterred all the behavior worse than my infraction.

I read walking home from school.  My feet knew every sidewalk crack and I did stop and look both ways before crossing the streets, I hope.  At home I lay on my stomach on my bed and read.  In the winter I got under the covers (no heat upstairs in the bedrooms!).  At night I used a flashlight I kept under my pillow.  As my mother made my bed every morning, my habit was no secret.
My ninth grade biology teacher was no credit to the profession.  My class was the first after lunch and he would come in, reeking, assign us a chapter to read, sit at his desk, tip his chair against the blackboard, put his feet up on a drawer and sleep.  I would read the chapter, then go to my latest book.  I never heard him come down the aisle.  He slammed an envelope on my desk, said “Give this to your parents and bring me the answer tomorrow!”  The bell rang.

I gave the envelope to my mother, who read it and said nothing.  My dad read it when he came home.  We ate dinner.  Finally dad said, “Show me your trashy dime novel in a brown paper cover.”  I had no such thing.  Dad suggested it might be the book right on top of my pile of school books.  “Dad, that’s your copy of Life on the Mississippi.  It had that cover on it when I took it off the bookshelf.”

Dad gave me a letter in an envelope to give to my biology teacher.  He suggested I make my own decision about reading in class, when my other work was done and the teacher otherwise occupied.  Each of my brothers had the same teacher for biology and each said “No” when asked if I was their sister.  When Jan got up to ninth grade biology, he had been “dismissed.” 

When I was on the road driving to shows I addicted myself to audio books.  I’m not a great fan of movies, especially adaptations of books I love.  The characters in my head are not the ones I see on the screen.  Stories are abridged, plots modified to cover the gaps….on and on.  I’m seldom disappointed in the reading of an audio book.  The few times in the last twenty years one has fallen short, I’ve donated it to the library and found a recording by a different narrator.  So, I no longer walk down the street reading, but you can find me at the gym or in front of the sewing machine with my trusty MP3 player.    To everyone who never interfered, Thanks.  As for the biology teacher, what the heck.  He made my dad chuckle.  I wonder what dad wrote back.


  1. Good question: What did he write?

    My small town school had minimum classroom libraries. The teachers let me move up the ladder and read other class books. By fifth grade, I had read all the books in the 1-8th grades. I understand the addiction.

  2. One room school was easy to get my hands on the upper grades readers..then it was on to the dusty ancient books in the bookcase at the back. I'll bet I was the only kid in that school who cracked the cover on Will Shakespeare.

  3. Such a fun blog! My Mom said I was born with my nose in a book. I guess I, too, read a lot. It was my most favourite thing! It was my treat when all of my other work was done. I think I took more books out of the school library than all of the other kids put together. I totally understand your reading addiction!

  4. My sister is as hopeless a bookophile as I am, and when we consolidated homes and added my mother's books, it was overwhelming. We donated them to the library. At least ten carloads. My back ached. I've read the phrase "convicted bookophile." We all can plead guilty.

  5. Thank god for libraries! I remember going to good old Mentor Public once a week and checking out 10 books at a time. Yes, that's more than one book a day! The reading addiction must be genetic! Your grandkids read in the car; read with headlamps now in bed (ain't technology great - no more numb arm from reading with a flashlight); and I bet the car camping trips in the past would have been much improved with some audio books. I know we calculated out that we could get down to Myrtle Beach and back on Harry Potter 7...