When I was a kid I read a lot. I was one of those girls that picked my purse based on whether or not my current book fit inside. I didn’t need a wallet, make-up, keys or anything else a pre-teen girl needed, as long as I had my book. (OK, maybe I needed the make-up. I never went without that, either. But the rest was definitely optional.)
My need to fit that book led to a lot of days where I had no money for lunch and no keys to get back in the house. It got to the point where my parents left the back door of the house unlocked because I never had my keys. (Now that I am on my own, they have gone back to keeping it locked at all times.)
I would read whenever I had the chance. I would hide my book under my desk in class, read between classes, sometimes even reading as I walked home from school, under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping. I was addicted.
My parents were very involved in our lives when we were growing up. When my brother and I needed a chaperone, my mom was there. When we took multi-day trips, my parents were there. They managed to do so without being overbearing, letting us do what we wanted without stepping in.
I will always remember my 10th-grade brother saying that he wanted to watch American Pie not long after it came out. My parents watched it first, decided it was cute, so they let him watch it—with them. (I must say, I am glad I avoided that one!)
While I have said that my mom does not want to hear anything about sex coming from her children now, she was very open when we were growing up. She used movies and books as a way to keep the lines of communication open with her children. What we watched, she watched. What we read, she read.
Yes, that’s right—she read everything I read. When I read the Babysitters Club, she did too. Same with Trixie Belden, Sweet Valley Twins and High, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street, among many others. It didn’t matter—if I read it, she did too. When I finished, we would sit and chat. She would answer any questions I had, and bring up anything that she figured I just wasn’t asking. (I was reading well above grade-level, so even Sweet Valley High brought up some questions for eleven-year-old me.)
I don’t remember her ever censoring me. As long as she read it first, she pretty much let me go with what I wanted. The same went for television and movies.
Judy Blume was the one author that inspired more mother-daughter talks than any other, and at varying times in my childhood. As an adult, there are two of her books that stand out more than any others (and Forever is not far behind).
I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret before that right-of-passage known as the fifth grade sex-ed class. (While my mom agrees with the necessity of sex-ed in schools, she preferred my brother and I heard it from her first.) It terrified me, but spurred some frank, open discussions. My mom had been there, and I was young enough that it wasn’t too embarrassing (yet).
That all changed a few months later when I read Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. For those that haven’t read it, the MC is a boy, dealing with issues in puberty—including masturbation and wet dreams. I may have been embarrassed at the time, but I see now that my mom, who suggested the book to me, was using my love of reading to bring up a touchy subject. It opened the door for us to talk openly about a subject that would have been even more awkward to bring up without the ice-breaker. It gave us a common ground, a fictional character to talk about. It made it more abstract, more accessible, while still teaching me those important life-lessons.
As I got older, I moved on to the major adult bestsellers—Jurassic Park lead to a love of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook. Then I found John Grisham. As the books I read spurred fewer conversations, television shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210 took over.
Still, I had to laugh last week. Francine Pascal released a follow-up to the Sweet Valley books, Sweet Valley Confidential. I was intrigued, so I bought it for my Nook. I mentioned it to my mom, who did the same. I haven’t read it yet (other than to scan through and see what the major fight between the sisters was–which shocked me), but I thought the bit of nostalgia would be a fun read. Apparently my mom agreed. 🙂
Who were your favorite authors as a child? Did you learn any life-lessons while reading? Is there a childhood series that you would like to see resurrected for adults?