As a kid, I vividly remember sitting in the blue chair of my parent’s living room and reading all of the American Girl series and listening to my mom read about Laura Ingalls when I was too tired to read myself. Looking back, time seemed slower then and my love for reading was a priority. And I was ecstatic when the school library hosted book fairs! The weeks leading up to it were filled with more chores (that I actually asked for) and spending nights perusing the catalog.
As I’ve gotten older, my thirst for learning has not wavered but my passion for books and patience to sit in peace and read has waned. However, all these memories came flooding back during quarantine (which happened to be my second maternity leave too). My best friends from home and I organized a weekly Monday night Zoom meeting to stay sane and continue to feel human connection beyond our immediate families. A few weeks into our new ritual, our English teacher friend decided we should all be reading more. Not only did she think we needed to be reading more, but that we needed a little competition as well so she brought back the “Book It” Club. If you were a 90s kid, you definitely remember the incentive reading program, “Book It”, and your prize – the personal pan pizza.
She had themes for each week and picked a different book for the six of us that matched our personalities and interests which included: beach reads, historical fiction, classics, young adult crossovers, nonfiction and contemporary issues (these came when the protests began after George Floyd’s death).
I learned that I love historical fiction (thanks American Girl and the Ingalls sisters) with my second recommendation A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. I fell in love with the author’s characters – complex and inspiring women. The Nighingale by Kristin Hannah rattled me, and made me mad at myself for not knowing more about the women who sacrificed during WWII – at home and on the front lines. We aren’t taught about those heroes, the women, in school but we should, and my daughters definitely will. My next “Book It” recommendation is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s historical fiction based on the life of Sarah Grimke, a suffragist and abolitionist, which is a timely rec as we commemorate the suffrage centennial. However, before I get to that, I’m going on vacation and will be fly fishing in West Virginia so I’ll be reading A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean per a recommendation by George Hanlin, Director of Grants at Indiana Humanities.
The entire “Book It” experience brought back memories of my passion for reading and has made me think about how important it is to spark my curiosity. While we didn’t get personal pan pizzas, we did get grown-up version gifts once we each read five books – I got macaroons! My friends and I made quarantine a little better and even had a book exchange to celebrate and continue earning our stars. We have even documented it all in our newsletter “The Ladies Who Quarantine” or LWQ for short.
The humanities encourage us to think, read and talk. In doing so we become more curious, culturally competent, deeper thinkers, risk takers and lifelong learners. I could not have imagined a better way to find my way back to being an avid reader than with my lifelong friends who keep me curious and make me think and talk too much about how I miss my American Girl Dolls, the Little House on the Prairie adventures and book fairs! I hope you find your way back to reading or to a good book and have a few moments of peace while reading.