One of my fondest summer memories is of going with my mom to the branch library not far from our home in suburban Philadelphia. We’d generally go in the evening, while it was still light out but not quite as hot and sticky as during the day. We would climb the steps and enter the large, cool building with its polished floors and hushed silence. I would make a beeline for the chapter books and sit cross-legged on the floor, sampling worn, hardback books from the shelves.
At some point I learned how to use the card catalog to find a favorite title or author, and loved the smooth, crisp slide of the wooden drawers as I pulled them out, and the satisfying click as I pushed them back in, having located whatever I was looking for. I had my own library card, and would happily tote my stack of books to the check-out desk to be hand stamped with date due on the card that slipped into a pocket in the back. Mysteries, stories of adventures in other lands, stories about girls my age, and biographies of famous women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Hellen Keller filled my arms and, over the weeks between library visits, my head. It was delicious to be able to read whatever I wanted all summer long, to get lost in the pages of other places and other people’s lives.
Another summer memory is of writing: Neighborhood “newspapers,” typed out on a manual typewriter at the kitchen table; journal entries written by hand on lined notebook paper in the back seat of the car on road trips with my family; postcards to friends and family from scenic stops and historic destinations (“Having fun!! Miss you!! XOXO!!”); letters to penpals in England and Thailand on those thin blue U.S. airmail foldout forms.
The August I was 13, the Beatles came to Philly to perform at an outdoor stadium, and as a crazed Beatlemaniac, I convinced my parents to buy me tickets to go by having the audacity to write to Teen Magazine to offer my “services” as a reviewer. The magazine sent me an unofficial press pass, and my parents were so impressed at my initiative that they purchased two tickets for the whopping cost (in 1966 it WAS whopping) of $6.50 each. My father dutifully accompanied me, the concert was unforgettable, and I wrote what is probably the longest, most rambling review in the history of rock music, which of course was never printed. But writing got me to the concert, and helped me to savor the experience of a stormy, ecstatic summer evening when I got back.
Do you have memories of summer reading and writing? How can educators and parents ensure that the children of the early 21st century have great memories of summer reading and writing? Send along your recollections and ideas…and have a wonderful summer!