By Bruce Stambaugh
It’s June and time to start making a dent in the summer reading lists. I’ve been reminded of that fact multiple times lately. Maybe you have been, too.
Scholarly newsletters featuring summer reading lists have recently inundated my email inbox. Friends on social media are both asking for reading suggestions and offering their own.
For full disclosure purposes, I am not the reader in the family. That honor goes to my wife, who reads and reads and reads. She has her reading habits down pat.
Me? I’m a laissez-faire reader, meaning I read as the literary spirit moves me. That also means that I don’t have a summer reading list.
What I peruse depends on my mood, mode, and purpose for reading. If I’m reading for pleasure, you can find me on the back porch, lounging in a rocker, beverage by my side, book or magazine in my hand. I’m not a romance novel kind of person.
Learning new words is also an essential part of why I read. I want to learn about the subject matter, but I also desire to expand my vocabulary. Every now and then I’ll insert a few of those new words into my writings. Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Growing up, I don’t remember having many books in our home. I don’t know why. With five active children in a small brick bungalow, perhaps we just didn’t have space.
We did frequent the local libraries though. My siblings and I would hop on a bus. It cost us a quarter each way, a significant investment in learning 60 years ago.
I especially loved the library located in an old refurbished mansion in Canton, Ohio’s center city. The combined smell of the books and a faint odor of a home once loved drew me in.
I’d scamper the spiral stairs of the ancient home with its coal smoke-blackened stone exterior. I couldn’t get enough of the thick, frosted glass floors of the mezzanine. The books became secondary to this young mind.
I wasn’t a great reader in school, as in elementary, junior high, high school, and college. Reading to me was like swimming, and I can’t swim. I think that fear of reading aloud manifested from having to orally read in front of 35 other terrified second graders. I heard the giggles when I stumbled over big words like “truck” and “peanut.”
Phonics was foreign back then. Sight-reading was the preferred method, and for me sometimes tricky. It’s probably the reason I read so slowly.
I loved to be read to, however. When I became a teacher, I made sure I incorporated reading aloud Mark Twain, Betsy Byers, William H. Armstrong, Madeline L’Engle, and others to the students after their noon recesses.
Times have changed. Access to reading is literally at your fingertips in today’s electronic world. I mention to my wife a book that I’d like to read, and a few minutes later she has it downloaded on her iPad from the library.
Since I’m a news nut, I prefer online reading based on stories gleaned from those multiple daily email newsletters. One click and I’m reading some marvelous stuff.
Still, there is just something about holding a book or magazine or newspaper that seems more appealing than the screen-time perusing. Maybe it’s just the physical satisfaction of turning a page in anticipation of what is ahead.
Either way, reading is reading regardless of your preferred style. It’s June already, time to get serious about reading, summer lists not required.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018
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