Summer best time to get kids ‘booked’

Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

I hope your kid gets booked this summer like I did before I started high school in a not-so-distant past. After all, there’s not much to do around here and it won’t hurt your kids to get into some adventures or misadventures this summer.
I’m talking, of course, about reading.

Summer is a perfect time to get your children booked. I was a bookworm in grade school. The school librarian at Portales W.E. Lindsey Elementary School was Mrs. Walsh and her face lit up every time I left the library with another stack of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. By the time I got out of college, however, reading for pleasure had become a thing of the past. But I got back on the reading bandwagon about five years ago, when I finally started heeding some much-ignored advice of how reading can make you a better writer. Duh!

Now, instead of an “I don’t have time to read” I have a “What should I read next?” attitude. And so I speak from experience when I say it’s best to get your children booked at a young age.

I’ll never forget the summer when I was about 13 and stumbled cross Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima that Mom had laying around the house. That book completely changed my life and made me want to become a writer, too. It’s funny, because this same book that I read because I was bored is now being used at colleges and universities.
I used Anaya’s book as a major source in a graduate-level research paper I wrote this spring and my college professor said my paper, a comparison between Native American medicine men and Hispanic curanderas, should be presented at a research conference or published in a journal. Just think what kinds of doors reading can open for your child.

Then there was the summer I read the entire Bible. I was in my early teens. Although I didn’t understand a lot of the scriptures the first time — and still don’t after four or five more reads since — that book has also changed my life and understanding of it.

Too many children today are not reading the Bible and that is devastating. Not only from a religious standpoint, but a cultural and literary standpoint as well. As I’ve discovered in my adulthood and as a British literature professor told us this spring, there are too many things out there that refer, directly or indirectly, to the Bible, which children will not “get” if they are not familiar with Bible stories.

It’s impossible to comprehend history and politics, a lot of symbolism in modern movies and songs, and even jokes, if they aren’t familiar with the Bible.

Reading not only opened up a whole new world to me as a child, it has also opened up a new world as an adult. Since taking a British literature class this spring, I’m suddenly noticing references to these long-gone authors in many facets of life. It’s like everywhere I turn lately there’s something. On TV, they’re quoting T.S. Eliot and Oscar Wilde. I go to a commencement and the speaker quotes Henry James. I open my Catholic Digest and there’s a beautiful picture of a rainbow with the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

I didn’t realize how these old British writers are still very much a part of our world today, and those people who are not exposed to it will not “get it.”

These days, my favorite reads range from the suspense thrillers of John Grisham to the feisty fiction of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and mystical novels of Ana Castillo; from the dramatic romances of Danielle Steel to the hair-brained tales of Texas writer Kinky Friedman (Steppin’ on a Rainbow). I also love the quirky humor of Dave Barry (Big Trouble) and the sentimentality of Sharon Randall (Birdbaths and Paper Cranes).

As for my daughter Laura and I, our all-time favorites that we still read together are: Peach and Blue (Sarah S. Kilborne), Too Many Tamales and Chato’s Kitchen (Gary Soto) and Love You Forever (Robert Munsch). Although Laura’s 13 now, going on 30, these are stories she never outgrows.

Have you shared a good book with your child lately? When was the last time you curled up with a book yourself? I always keep books in my car in case there’s a train or other delays along the way.

I hope you get booked this summer!