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Marion County: Reading Inspirations

Statesman Journal


Reading Inspirations Found in Many Genres
By Louis Meyer, Stayton Public Library

When I was a child, I was so excited to start school. I remember asking over and over:

"When can I go to school?"

I had several older sisters and was very envious of them because they got to bring books home from school to practice reading, which fascinated me. I had learned to read very early, possibly from listening to them read or from having my dad read to us; "Winnie the Pooh" and "Wind in the Willows" were special favorites. We did not have much money in our family, but stories and songs were a big part of our lives.

I must say I was greatly disappointed when I did start school. The first year we spent learning the alphabet and not reading.  By the second grade, I was thoroughly bored with learning to read. The phonics and the Dick and Jane readers that we were required to use were so dull and repetitious that I was not interested at all.

However, inspiration came in a way I could never have imagined. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Ward, had a secret stash, and it made all the difference to me.  She kept a drawer full of comic books by her desk, and we were allowed to go to the drawer and choose a comic book to read when we finished our work. A lot of class in those days was spent doing workbook pages, practicing writing letters and basic math — not very much fun. But, oh, those comic books.

"Porky Pig," "Woody Woodpecker," "Bugs Bunny" and — my favorite — “Superman" were among the titles she kept in that magic drawer. I was tempted every day by those silly characters and crazy stories.  Superman was a fantastic guy who could do anything, just like my dad. I read those as often as possible, and I became a reader.

I don't know what might have happened if I had not discovered the world of comic books and reading for fun. I might have given up altogether. We did not have a library in our little country town, the school library was not available to small kids, and books were not something my family could afford.

Later on, I spent many hours in the school library and even worked in my high school library, but early on, I read comic books.  Every time I was able to scrape together 35 cents, the price I remember from back then, I spent it on comic books.

I went on from there to reading everything I could get my hands on and became a good student, going on to college, getting a master's degree in library science and having a career as a librarian. However, it all started with that combination of cartoon drawings, words and an insightful teacher who saw the value of reading for fun.

That is why I am a supporter of Reading for All, the initiative that seeks to get books into the hands of children and to make them excited about reading. I know that having your own book and reading for fun makes learning to read easier and that it leads to better overall learning in school, a successful school experience and success in life.

There are so many ways to create a reader.
What's your story?

Louise Meyers is director of Stayton Public Library. You can contact her at louise@ccrls.org.