Being a reader in the age of the internet is a true blessing. There is so much to enjoy in the bookish corners of the internet. From websites like that let you track your reading, to apps that making borrowing ebooks and audiobooks from the library a breeze, to the ability to connect with publishers and authors on social media; being a reader has never been a more social or community based activity as it is now and I truly wouldn’t change it for the world.
That said, from time to time, I like to look back and reminisce about the experiences that shaped me as a reader growing up. It’s easy to view this time through rose-colored glasses, and I wouldn’t give up bookstagram or the community that it has fostered for all of the nostalgia but it’s hard to deny the charm of childhood reading which for many of us foreshadowed or planted the seeds of a future love of books.
1. The Scholastic Book Fair
The Scholastic Book Fair in my mind was right up there with Christmas and my birthday in the list of greatest days of the year. A couple of times a year the Scholastic Book Fair would set up shop at school. The school auditorium or gym would be transformed into a wonderland of stickers, erasers, knickknacks and of course, books. The doors would open and we would descend like a flock of tiny, rabid, book mad vultures on all the goodies waiting to be discovered. I learned many life skills from these days (like knowing the layout of the place beforehand) that have transferred over to making the most out of events like BookCon, which come to think of it, is basically Scholastic Book Fairs for grown-ups.
2. Scholastic Catalogues
Now that I think of it, Scholastic in some ways has become synonymous in my childhood reading. I remember receiving the Scholastic book order catalogues from my teacher with all the solemnity and reverence that a six year old could muster. I remember slowly turning the wafer thin pages and reading the blurbs for each book carefully considering whether I was more interested in learning about dinosaurs or in the coloring book with the sticker packet. I would then circle my choices in red marker and hand it over to my mom with the biggest puppy eyes I could muster. Receiving that cellophane wrapped package of books a couple of weeks later and tearing it open was pretty much the greatest feeling ever.
3. Reading the Classics
The Babysitters Club, Goosebumps, The Magic Tree House, Animorphs, American Girl books. If you were a reader in the 90’s or early 2000’s chances are you encountered some of these classics in your time. All of these series have a fond place in my heart and have lead to spontaneous bonding sessions with complete strangers over our shared nostalgia of these childhood favorites. My personal favorite series however, was a slight less well known series called the Pony Pals which fueled many hours of wishful thinking and trying to convince my parents that we could in fact, house a pony in our two bedroom apartment, no problem.
4. Library time/Silent
My very scientific inquiries (aka asking the school aged children in my family) have revealed to me that Silent Reading time at school is not, in fact, a thing of the past but is still very much practiced regularly in elementary schools which I am so happy to hear because it was one of my favorite parts of the week at school (and I suspect the teacher’s as well). In retrospect, this formed the beginnings of a habit of scheduling and prioritizing reading as part of my day for present day me is very grateful.
5. Reading Reward
I suspect that programs like Pizza Hut’s “Book It!” and variations thereof are at least partially responsible for bringing up a generation of readers. Learning that reading a finishing a book could bring tangible rewards (like pizza), spurred us to read more and more and soon gave way to the realization that reading could be its own intrinsic reward. Through these programs many of us developed a lifelong voracious appetite for books. And pizza. Always pizza.
6. Audiobooks on tape/CD
Audiobooks were not as big a part of my reading life as they are now. Before audiobooks were just a tap on an app away at all times, we used to have to rent or purchase CDs or if you’re a real OG millennial, cassette tapes, usually multiple in a large box. One of the absolute best gifts I have ever received is still the 17 CD set of the unabridged version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which provided hours of listening fun. Just be careful not to lose a CD!
7. That noise the library stamp made when you check out books
Is there anything more satisfying than that heavy “ker-chunk” noise that the manual date stamps at the library would make when the librarian would check out your book? Today’s scanner just don’t have the same pizzazz. Is this a weird thing to reminisce about? Maybe, but if the number of ASMR library stamp noises videos on Youtube are any indication, there are a fair number of us out there who enjoy a good, nostalgic stamp noise.
What memories of being a young reader do you treasure? What experiences helped shape you into the reader you are today?