As a teenager I went to socialize, but what started out as an acceptable excuse to leave the house on a weeknight, turned into a life-long passion for unearthing jewels of the library. Waiting for friends, I picked up a book, and quite by accident, got sucked into its lair. Obsession for books grew over time, while each week I would arrive earlier and earlier to mine new treasures, before my friends came.
During my early twenties, my father's infirmity caused him to go blind. Along with sight, he lost confidence in the ability to do things; he’d once taken for granted. Yet, the library was insightful, and progressive. They had started a collection expressly for people with vision impairments. He was one of
the first to enjoy, books on tape. They provided an escape from darkness; keeping his mind alive with vivid details and adventures he could no longer experience physically. I loved to listen to books with him, watching his expressions while transported by gifted authors and eloquent readers. Then,
audio-books were in their infancy and limited in supply, so when he did not have a talking-book, I would read classics I had learned to love during those exploratory teenage years.
Dad died while my husband and I were living in a far away
ski-resort. The discovery of those talking-gems are part of his inheritance to me along with joy that comes from listening to a book shared with family and friends, or even while alone. He would be blown away by the extensive title selections, advances in technology, and professional readers that now make the experience even more enjoyable.
Our children were born in my late twenties. Nothing was better than holding them. So, reading to them while holding them, was a natural. It was good fortune to live around the corner from our library. Unfortunately, it was not open everyday, due to small town budget constraints, and often, inclement weather. During special outings we'd spend hours there sifting through books and reading. Our oldest daughter loved to sit in my lap while I pointed out pictures in her favorite Richard Scary books. I'd name them, and then she would repeat. But, our youngest daughter didn't seem to understand us, and at six months old was diagnosed...deaf.
How could this be? Now, what are we going to do? We were isolated and alone, while searching for answers on how to raise her. I didn't know were to go for help, so I immediately went to my refuge, the library. We looked up every article, and read every book that could be found on deafness. The library was small, but accommodating; borrowing books from other county libraries to aid our research. I found one reference book that really struck a cord, and we decided to raise her with a visual representation of English.
When I think about the gifts I would most want to give my children; love, literacy, and confidence, comes to mind. We learned as we taught her; sign by sign, word by word, hoping to infuse literacy into the signed language of choice. We constantly checked out and borrowed books, to open up our baby’s mind and broaden her world. It was hard to hold both her and a book while signing, but somehow we managed.
Eventually, we moved back to the city, for better access to education, when she was a toddler. Early intervention is the key for language acquisition, so books were her consent companions. Those pictures in the Richard Scary
books were now pointed at and signed. “Bird, that’s a bird.” “Bird,” she'd sign back. “Bird fly.” The library has done for my daughters, what it has done for my father, and me; providing access, enrichment, and enjoyment. There have even been libraries that have even offered story time, signed.
Both daughters are now in college experiencing life’s challenges, but not from lack of being literate or well informed. Now, when they want to explore, research, or just hang out, they know where they are welcome. And, just as in my life, they too know that the library is a friend that will grow with them, every step of the way.