The Siblinghood of the Traveling Library
My library was born the day I scribbled my name all over a copy of my brother’s favorite book, on loan from one of the neighboring Shaver boys. He was not amused. I was only four and proud of learning to write my name. And I was fascinated by Walt Disney’s colorful version of “The Swiss Family Robinson.” My name belonged on that book. Of course, my brother begged to differ.
However, I need to give him credit. He and my mother taught me to read at a very early age. She read me bedtime stories from the “Little Golden books.” My brother, five years my elder, brought home his reading textbooks and delighted me with stories as diverse as O’Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Eventually, I could decipher the entire alphabet for myself! Dick and Jane and “Little Golden Books” fell away to more advanced books. I read the tattered story of those deserted island dwellers so many times I could recite it from memory. Yet nothing captured my imagination like books such as Walter Farley’s “Little Black, A Pony,” and every other book he ever wrote. (I was one of those girls enamored with horses. I still am six decades later.)
My interests broadened, as did my book collection. I read every book in the school library by the end of second grade. Thank heavens for the public library system! I eventually graduated from college with a degree in Elementary Education, my library ready for my students.
Once I started teaching, I grew my collection through the wonderful Scholastic school book program. No one ever complained about my selections except a student who politely announced, upon scanning my shelves, “Excuse me, but I’ve already read all the books you have here. What can I read?” I felt his pain!
Years passed. I married, had a baby, and packed away my volumes. But it didn’t seem right to keep those books hidden away. I loaned them to a family who had treated me as one of their own in my single years. Their children read through the library until they outgrew them. By then, my brother’s young children were reading. So it was time to pack the books again and ship them off – to Tokyo.
Our daughter tried to read before she could barely hold a book. The library eventually crossed the Pacific Ocean again, making its way back to us. We moved to Colorado when she was eight, making sure the books were the first thing on the moving van.
She fell in love with that library. Her love for reading was even sweeter as she lost all hearing by the time she was seven. Through the pain of her descent into silence, I prayed that reading would give her the world. Indeed it did. She’s an adult now, a college graduate who reads mostly on her phone or laptop. Yet she still loves the feel of real volumes and frequently checks out stacks of books from the library.
We just moved our daughter into a new apartment close to her job. What awaited her in the bedroom instead of a closet? A large wardrobe. Does it get any better than that? (I’m convinced there’s a lampost in its depths.)
The traveling library is once again safely packed away. But soon they’ll have a new destination. I hope the next group of siblings read the taped, ragged copy of “The Swiss Family Robinson” first, and scribble their names on its pages.