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Reading Memories

One of my earliest memories is not of reading but of being read to. My mother, I realize now, was remarkable and wonderful in introducing books a little above my actual reading level by reading them out loud to me at bedtime. So, I clearly remember her reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to me when we arrived in Canada when I was seven. We stayed at Sproat Lake with my Great Aunt in a bona fide log cabin, and my mother read C S Lewis to me at bedtime. I wept when Aslan was killed, and she reassured me that somehow everything would turn out all right. And it did.

Little traitor, I loved it when my father read out loud to me, which he seldom did. Whether it was the novelty, or whether it was those Emery acting genes, it always seemed to me that my father's reading was more exciting and lively than my mother's.

Once I started reading for myself, a recurring theme was my effort to escape the strictures of bedtime. I was given a torch (flashlight) for my birthday or Christmas shortly before we left England, and that would have allowed me to read under the covers except that my mum was wise to me. Efforts to turn my bedside light on again after I'd been "settled down" for the night were thwarted by my parents spotting the light under my bedroom door. The best thing was, once we came to Canada, the yearly ritual of putting coloured lights on the house at Christmastime. I don't think my parents ever realized how bright those lights were, and how they allowed me to read delightedly for long stretches of time after my official "lights out."

Later, when we moved down to Victoria, I remember the Saturday ritual of going to the library. At that time, the main branch of the library was in the old Carnegie building on Douglas and Yates. We would go every Saturday morning, and I would get my limit of eight books. Then we would go a couple of doors down to the English Sweetshop, and I would buy "scotties" candy with my pocket money. Then, at home, I spent a blissful
afternoon munching my candies and reading one, if not two, of my library books.

Then, there was the Book Exchange. You took in four paperback books and you could walk out with two. Wondrous.

And do you remember the Scholastic book club? You ordered from a catalogue, then on one afternoon at school the teacher unpacked a big box and you went home with two or three or four new paperback books. Some memorable Scholastic books I "bought" were Shadow Castle, Grey Magic by Andre Norton, and Understood Betsy.

So many books, so much time. The long hours of childhood - the long summer holidays, the Saturday afternoons that stretched forever. And endless books, still undiscovered. Bliss.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 24th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
I used to do the illicit reading after bedtime, too, even though I had permission to read until an hour after my (very early) official bedtime. I remember kneeling at the end of my bed in the long summer evenings, reading by the last daylight with the curtains over my shoulders. I used to worry that my mother would notice I was further ahead in the book than I had been, but something she said years later suggested that she'd known all about it and didn't really mind.
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was allowed to read for a while in bed, but my parents came in for official good night kisses and light turning out ritual, then it was supposed to be sleep. I tried everything to read for longer though!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
thank you :)
Sep. 24th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)
You'll be happy to know that scholastic is still going strong. S and I are currently awaiting an order, and I still get the same thrill, vicariously now, when the flyer arrives and then again when the order comes in.
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad to hear it! I still have some of mine, and looking at me reminds me of that excitement.
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Also, S and I still go to the English Sweetshop on Yates after library trips. We've modernized the experience somewhat by adding a trip to the video store, but the essence remains the same.
Sep. 24th, 2007 06:00 am (UTC)
And do you remember the Scholastic book club? You ordered from a catalogue, then on one afternoon at school the teacher unpacked a big box and you went home with two or three or four new paperback books.

Oh yes, I remember that very well. Many well-beloved books joined me that way. Some less beloved ones also-- The Guiness Book of World Records sticks in my mind.

Understood Betsy is one of my favorite books, by the way. My grandmother gave it to me when I was a little girl.
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yes - I've been reminded when thinking about this post and a previous one how much I liked Understood Betsy. I somehow lost my copy of it - I need to replace it, I think!
Sep. 24th, 2007 09:03 am (UTC)
These are such vivid, wonderful memories.
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Sep. 24th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
Mmmmmm yes. I just loved it when we moved when I turned twelve, and at last I had a library in walking distance. And you could take out ten books at once! And come back as often as you liked!
Sep. 24th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
I think it's possibly a Good Thing that I didn't have a library within walking distance. You would have never seen me :)
Sep. 24th, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
I ran a Scholastic club till a year or two ago, but their range became very tacky and limited in scope. I remember a much more varied range when I was a child, though rose-tinted hindsight may well be at work.

I too did everything I could do to get a few more minutes to read. We had torches for Christmas, but somehow when the batteries ran out they were never replaced. I assumed my parents had no idea what I was doing. I was that naive. I also used to put my little transistor radio under my pillow to listen to
I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again
in what I fondly imagined was secret.

I have few memories of not being able to read - I seem to have picked it up extremely swiftly, and by the age of seven was way beyond my mother's ability to work out what I had not yet read. I gobbled up books like
What Katy Did
Little Women
, but also my mother's Sunday School prize
Pilgrim's Progress
and the first two books of
Gulliver's Travels
- all before I was eight. I remember the many towns we lived in as much by their libraries as by the schools or houses.
Sep. 25th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
Seconding the 'mmmmm lovely' comments.

We moved (back to Ireland after 3 years in the States) during a school year when I was 11. There was a little glitch in finding a secondary school that would take me at 11, so I had several weeks when my mother and step-father were busy and I'd get a couple of shillings to walk over to Parson's Bookshop alone about every day. Bliss!

Have you read Francis Spufford's The Child That Books Built, btw? Feeling jealous of the clarity of your book memories reminded me of feeling jealous of his. :) Great book.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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