"Back in the Day" (as my kids would say), when my best girlfriend and I were about ten or so, during the summers, we would walk down to the local public library a few times a week. We both joined a summer reading club...I think it
was called, "Reading for Fun" or something like that. For each book you read, you'd get a gold star sticker on a card.
If you filled up your card, your name went up on a special poster and you won a prize. Nothing big, just a bookmark or a pencil. But I can't tell you how exciting it was for us just to compete! Both against each other and against the other kids! It was stimulating and educational, while being a heck of a lot of fun all at the same time!
The librarians would recommend great classics like "The Box Car Children", "Charlotte's Web", or "Encyclopedia Brown". We'd check out the books with our very own library card (a huge deal when you're ten, by the way)! Then we'd stop by the corner market or the ice cream shop next door, grab something to eat or some candy and go sit in the stairwell of the apartments across the street.
It was a nice quite, cool place to read to our hearts' content. Of course, back then you never had any idea what time it was - you just had to be home by "dark".
That experience planted a seed which grew into a lifelong love of reading for me. I truly believe that by offering those contests to a ten year old kid that the library gave me the opportunity and desire to learn the joy of reading!
To this day, I am an avid reader. I have traveled to more exotic and thrilling places and done more exhilarating things through books than I ever could have done in "real" life. I've laughed, cried, learned, been scared to half to death, dreamed, pondered and accomplished more in my life all because the library gave me the love of reading at an early age.
I have traveled around the world (and beyond), become a better problem-solver through the many mysteries I have enjoyed reading and been helped mentally and emotionally in times of trouble and confusion. I have loved deeper, cared more and learned to try harder to be a better person - all because of reading.
I have been educated on subjects which helped me gain better jobs with more pay. True story: Once, I had a job interview for a position which I had absolutely no clue about. So I stopped by the library on my way to the interview and quickly scanned a few books on the subject, thus becoming instant "expert".
Needless to say, I was hired!
I was also able to use this same system with my children when they were first learning to read. I'd let them read anything that interested them (within reason, of course), just so that they would learn to love it as much as I do. I'd give them little cards with stickers for each book they completed and prizes for filling up their cards...just like the library did back in the good 'ol days for me. They are now both above-average students and have graduated from high school in the top 20% of their classes. They are both currently attending college. My youngest son is even studying to become a newspaper columnist - Go figure!
I truly believe that reading is a huge key to success in practically every aspect of my life. The library opened doors that made it possible for me to be the person I am today. Not only has it positively affected my life, but my childrens' lives, as well.
I just wish I could somehow go back and thank those wonderfully kind and helpful librarians from the Marion County Public Library on Rockville Road in Indianapolis, back in the summers of 1971-1973, who recommended my first books and created this fascinating "reading domino effect" in my life!