Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A well-rounded diet

My family can attest to the fact that we didn't own a book that I haven't read -- growing up, I read everything, including Webster's. I know. I'm a complete geek, and even more geeky for confessing it. But I used to open that book on rainy days, when I couldn't find anything else in the house worth re-reading for the second or third or fourth time -- and we had lots and lots of books.

Where was I? Oh, rainy days and Websters. I'd run my fat little finger down that column of tiny print, marveling that there were so many different ways to say the same thing -- and yet, not quite, for each had its own little meaning and connotation.

I'll go ahead and admit that I got on a Hemingway kick when I was in high school, something that concerned my English teacher to no end. Did I really, really GET it? she wondered.

At the same time I devoured Hemingway, I was also reading things my teachers probably considered "junk." Rex Stout. Catherine Cookson. Robin Cook. Phyllis Whitney. Any Harlequin Romance I could get my hands on. (No, these writers didn't write junk, but you know how librarians and English teachers can get, right? Heck, I was an English prof myself, so I know we can get uppity.)

I didn't limit myself to "adult" literature, either. I went back and read all sorts of "children's" literature, books that hadn't appealed to me when I was younger: ALICE IN WONDERLAND, LITTLE WOMEN (still one of my faves), and even THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS.

To this day, I'm still an eclectic reader -- lots of biographies and mysteries and thrillers -- oh, and romance, of course. Lately, I've been enjoying Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series ( with my daughter -- it's great writing, and I love the little scamp she's created.

The point of all this? The point, I guess, is that I'm glad I never fell into the trap of believing that "reading should be good for you." Tess Gerritsen put it so well recently in her blog entry called Legume Literature. People who are determined to read high-brow stuff -- when high-brow stuff really doesn't move them -- are making themselves miserable, and in the process not getting the true payoff for reading.

So ... With my little one, I do what my mom did for me: I let her read whatever interests her. If it's a non-fiction book about snakes, well, I'll squirm but I'll keep turning those pages. If it's more June B. Jones, that's great, too! As long as she's reading!

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