Library Cards Save Lives
Books were the center of my life as a child. Until eleven years old, I was an only child and mostly cared for by my elderly grandparents. I spent countless hours alone. My mother lived separately and worked during the day but would often read to me in the evening. The first book I remember was The Tall Book of Fairy Tales by Eleanor Graham Vance, with illustrations by William Sharp. There was another larger book, which I believe was a collection of tall tales like "Johnny Appleseed," but I remember there were only a few that I liked, so I suspect it was geared toward boys. Alas, I was a very girly girl.
When I was about seven, I started giving my grandfather breaks in his corner grocery store while he rested after a heart attack. I had graduated beyond the fairy tales and was desperate for books, but what was available besides the few Trixie Belden books that came in at the dime store sporadically were my grandfather’s reading: Mickey Spillane, Zane Grey, and The Denver Post newspaper. I could read the words, but often had no clue what they were talking about. At the end of fifth grade, as I bemoaned that I would have nothing to read over the summer, the school librarian told me I could get a library card at the town library and read all the books I wanted. That day, heaven's gates were opened and a whole magical world awaited.
My grandmother drove me there, and I got my library card. After that, I rode my bicycle there once or twice a week and read almost a book a day. The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy series occupied me that summer. Since we did not get television until I was around ten, there was little else to do but read. Books were my best friends and taught me there were all sorts of different things and ideas outside my western Kansas town. (Like Peyton Place when I was in seventh-grade biology class, but that's another story.)