by Kristine Coblitz
Can you remember the first book you ever read?
Surprisingly, for me, it wasn't a mystery.
My love of reading started in the third grade. The book that started it all was RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8 by Beverly Cleary. Mrs. Katich, our teacher, used to read a chapter of the book to our class at the end of every school day. I remember how much I used to look forward to each installment. We'd all settle into our chairs, nestled in a circle as we eagerly awaited to hear what new adventure Ramona was going explore. After the last chapter was read, we all scurried to the library to acquire our own copies, which we devoured even though we already knew the story.
We all identified with poor Ramona Quimby. We could relate to her struggles with schoolwork and family. The cover shot of Ramona with her funky hair and pudgy face seemed to reflect how we all felt. Saying good-bye to the book was like saying good-bye to a friend who actually understood us.
Even then, the discovery and beauty of reading was taking shape in our minds. We didn't have Play Station, the Internet or iPods to keep us occupied. Books stimulated us instead. Perhaps that's why we didn't have school violence back then, but that's a topic for another blog and another day, isn't it?
If only we could turn back time. If you ask me, the whole Harry Potter reading mania is a step in the right direction. Earlier this summer, while my husband and I were on vacation, I was thrilled to see two middle school girls reading on the beach. Yes, they were reading. They were so engrossed in their books, in fact, that I doubt they were even aware of anything else happening around them.
A few years ago, I bought my own copy of Beverly Cleary's book and it has a permanent place on my bookshelf. Every once in a while I'll take it out and read it, amazed that the magic feeling I felt as a young child is still there. I intend to share it with my own children in hopes that they will appreciate and cherish a good story as much as I did.
Take a trip down memory lane and think about the book that started it all for you. If it's still in print and you can manage to snag a copy, all the better. Is it a book you'd want to share with your children or the next generation of readers?
If so, I want to hear about it. I have a pretty large bookshelf to fill in the nursery and could use some suggestions.