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Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reading. Show all posts

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Celebrating Libraries

This is National Library Week, a time to focus on our public library systems and refresh our gratitude for the ways these libraries are available to us - quantities of collections for us to use for resource and enjoyment, free of charge.  A discussion this week about times that a library was important to us led to several remarks about checking out books weekly when we were children. Of course, for me and those near my age, there were no televisions, tablets, computers, or smart phones to provide information and entertainment. I read my stack of books quickly every week and was ready to go back to the cool quiet of the small library in Jacksonville, TX long before Mother was ready to drive me back!

Currently, many of our libraries also provide a wide selection of audio books which are vitally important to those whose vision no longer allows print reading.  These books also provide many hours of reading for those who have long commutes or travel. is an incredible audio resource that allows building a personal audio library at minimal cost. Thousands now read e-books on a Kindle or tablet and can take a virtual library with them that is smaller than the size of a single book. E-books are also loaned from many public libraries along with devices on which they can be read.

 I sincerely hope we will continue to support and to utilize the wealth contained on the shelves of  material in our public libraries.Celebrate your local library this week by checking out a new book.  Take your children or grandchildren!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I was recently asked to write a brief piece about reading and how it shapes us, and shapes how and what we write. Because I have written about my books and reading a number of times, I repeat some thoughts. But since circumstances change and books continue to add dimension and depth to my life, there will always be new thoughts.

A few tattered and faded children's books rest on shelves in our home library.  There are several shelves loaded with books of all sizes and shapes that belonged to my sons when they were growing up.  Now my granddaughters like to go to those shelves and choose books to read when they are here.  Sometimes I give one to Skye that has Sean (her daddy) printed on the inside cover. Or I may send a few home with Maddie and Jordann marked with "for Jeremy, from Mom and Dad" - books that belonged to their dad, our second son.  I have already given not yet one-year-old Nora books that include her own daddy's name, Ben, as the proud owner. 

But the name on the first books I mention is "Mary Ann." Mother Goose. Children's Prayers. Henny Penny.  They are books from my own very early childhood, so that makes some of them nearly 75 years old.  There are others on the shelves that were mine when I was a little girl and reading was already part of my every day life - The Five Little Martins, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Bobsey Twins and Nancy Drew series. Once in a blog post I wrote about the significance of these books by saying: Beyond the edges of the pages in these children's books is a narrative of family choices and values that is dear to me.  Neither my grandparents nor my parents were well educated or wealthy. "Times were hard." is an expression I heard often when they spoke of past years.  The fact that books were important speaks volumes about family standards and values. I cannot hold these books and finger their fragile pages without thinking of being read to when I was little, and remembering that my mother had the same advantage.  It was natural that reading to my own children was always one of my favorite things to do.  It is sweet to see that tradition carried on as my sons have their own little ones who share bedtime prayers and bedtime stories.  

Reading has indeed shaped my life and naturally shapes how and what I choose to write. I believe we are enriched by the stories of others, and that the more we read the wider our own life experience becomes.  This is more than just finding good prompts in what I read.  I read a wide variety of genres, including poetry, and often find a phrase turned in a way that it becomes a part of my own language.   I said it this way in a blog post about reading and keeping books:  there are those volumes I read that intrigue or entertain or illumine, that somehow stay with me as a changed piece of my heart.  Even the little yellowed children's books that I show my grandchildren saying, “this storybook was mine when I was a little girl,”  are me, like my brown eyes and freckles.  Many books in my library become part of me in different ways when I reread them in later years....

Books I have recently read which have stretched me, often making me laugh and cry out loud are Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Both are fiction, but the genre differs. They are such very different reads, but I feel each has enriched and filled me.  What books have made you feel that way?
The blog posts I have quoted from are below.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Public Libraries

I am both a patron and a champion of public libraries. We now live in a county that has a wonderful library system with state of the art technology. I can open my laptop and go to the library website, search for books, place them on hold, and go by to get them from a shelf, then check them out myself with computerized scanning. If a book that I want is already checked out, I can request that I be put in the queue and notified. If I wish, I can go to this spacious, sunlit library and curl up in a comfortable armchair in one of several cozy sitting areas to read or research material I don't want to take with me. I take my granddaughters to the younger readers' section of the library and enjoy their pleasure in choosing books as well as remembering how much our public library meant to me when I was their age.

                                          The University Branch Of George Memorial Library, located in Sugar Land, Texas

I don't have photographs of that childhood library, but it was located in Jacksonville's City Park, near the spot the little gazebo occupies in this old picture. The library has changed its location, but still serves Jacksonville's citizens as well as others in Cherokee County. My memory pictures always include the dark wood floors, the racks of wooden drawers which held the card catalogs where my fingers clicked indexed cards instead of computer keys, the kind librarian who helped me find books, the smell of old books and cleaning polish, and the hush. I loved the library but I spoke in whispers there. I am grateful for that little library that supported my love for reading, for my parents, who took me there, for books that took me places beyond my imagination. I now read e-books on my iPad, listen to audio books while I am driving, cooking, and cleaning, buy books in tempting bookstores and on Amazon, but I am forever glad there are still libraries.

A photo courtesy of the Cherokee County Historical Society shows Mrs. C. A (Minnie). Childs bending to lay the first stone for the Jacksonville Public Library in 1940.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thank You, Jane!

Coming Into My OwnComing Into My Own by Jane Hill Purtle

I will preface my remarks and commendation with saying that the biggest reason I bought and read this memoir as well as the reason it had such attraction and impact (push and pull!) is that the author's story and mine intersect very personally. We have the same great grandmother. My grandmother and Jane's grandfather Hill were half brother and sister. But the family tree is not the only thing we share. Although we have not crossed paths physically many times in our lives, we are alike in many pursuits - loving art and literature, writing, keeping family stories, nurturing friendships, grandmothering, enjoying gardening and birds, seeking spiritual truths and making faith and family priorities

I may have read it for different reasons than you will, but you will be bettered by sharing Jane's journey.

After I posted the above review on GoodReads this morning, I wrote my cousin a note to wish her Happy Birthday since I read in her book that her birthday is September 13. I told her that on this day (9/11) of remembering many sad things as well as acts of bravery and courage, plus stories of family and faith, I wanted to let her know I was remembering her and her birthday. I am grateful for her story.  Thank you, Jane.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Journal Keeper

When I read a book which I know from the beginning I will read again, I like to encourage others to read it, too. I have chosen not to advertize or monetize my blogs, so this is not a pitch to go out and buy The Journal Keeper, but it is so worth reading.  I think your public library will have a copy.  I know that I identify strongly with Theroux because I value journaling, and have done so for many years.  I admire her journey of faith and smile knowingly at her adventures with her aging mother, remembering my own and our long farewell with Alzheimer's. Of course, there are many elements in her life far different from mine, but I really do think Phyllis Theroux and I could sit down with a cup of tea and pick right back up even though we have never had the beginning of the conversation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


                       Howard Teal and his first grandson, Sean Parker, Christmas 1968

This picture speaks to me of Christmas past and Christmas present, even Christmas yet to come.  My Daddy is holding our first son. How proud he was!  Sean loved his Papa, and already loved books. They are delighting each other with the reading of The Night Before Christmas.  Can't you hear "...up the chimney he rose?"  With this book, as in most, arriving at the last page meant "again, read it again!"

So, as I bring in the boxes of decorations and begin pulling out all the old familiar ornaments and set up the manger scenes, I am brimming with both tears and smiles, thinking how good it is to do it again.  I set up our advent wreath and candles and fill the big basket with all the children's Christmas books read and reread so many times.  I stack my Christmas piano music and practice the arrangements of White Christmas and Silent Night that I have played for so many years now.  I  am thankful that I did most purchases for gifts before Thanksgiving, so that shopping is not on my to do list, and I can spend  more time re-calibrating during Advent.  I listen to my favorite Christmas CD, James Galway's Christmas Carol.  On the way to Bethlehem, again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Books and Lobster Shells!

“Books... are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
With a nod to Sayers' wit, I confess I have the surrounding myself with books thing down.  That has never been a problem.  I do seem to trip over growing out of them and definitely have a problem with leaving them behind!  In an effort to balance this, plus reducing the load on library shelves and most other flat surfaces in the house,  I have been sorting books to leave behind.  I have donated books to the local library,  put out books for Purple Heart pickup, and am practicing giving books away rather than loaning them – in particular, cookbooks!  I confess this has barely made a dent in the book population here.
The problem for me is, a book doesn't just become a temporary acquisition or a brief part of me.  Not that the occasional book doesn't merit tossing after a single read – but there are those volumes I read that intrigue or entertain or illumine, that somehow stay with me as a changed piece of my heart.  Even the little yellowed children's books that I show my grandchildren saying, “this storybook was mine when I was a little girl,”  are me, like my brown eyes and freckles.  Many books in my library become part of me in different ways when I reread them in later years. I know I need to shed alot more shells, er..books.

Yes, I will still work on leaving behind the outgrown lobster shells.  But I will keep and treasure the books that have grown with me which I do not outgrow.  When I no longer need them, perhaps my granddaughters will pick them up and say “this book was Granmary's”.   In the meantime, I think this is a good afternoon to finish Frances Mayes' Every Day in Tuscany - a trip to Italy this afternoon- and still be back to make dinner!