Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

20 Loves, Part 3: I Love to Read

Maybe my love of words and reading started in the crib. My mother said she taught me nursery rhymes in late nights while my father worked driving a city streetcar.

I devoured the limited library collection at Marcy Elementary, the K-8 school I attended in Detroit, running through works by Lois Lenski, John Tunis, Louisa Mae Alcott, Betty Cavanna, James Fenimore Cooper. Biographies of Thomas Edison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ben Franklin, Marie Curie, and Florence Nightengale intrigued me. So did those Hardy boys and Nancy Drew. From 6th grade on, each year I re-read several favorites: Mrs. Mike, Seventeenth Summer, Little Men, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books.

Friends, Patricia and Saundra, and I trekked to the Public Library on Gratiot Avenue every week. We would browse and read and show each other our new discoveries. Each of us would choose another armful to check out before heading home. It was heaven.

That walk to the library took forever in winter. We’d share gloves, warming the hand that carried our load of return books, our other hand jammed in a coat pocket. Sometimes we’d run for one block, to generate body heat, then we’d slow to a walk for the next. In hot, humid summer months, stopping at the Eagle Dairy for milkshakes became a delicious habit that continued into the fall. 

Reading, itself, was a delicious habit. It transported Saundra, Patricia, and me through time and space, gave us a glimpse of other ways of living, and taught us three little Black girls about the world outside our eastside neighborhood. I’m sure it’s because of our love of reading that we ended up with lives different from most kids on our block.

While pregnant, I read aloud to my daughters. Pat the Bunny, Curious George, and The Snowy Day were favorites. Going to the library became an event for them as toddlers. This paid off as they grew to enjoy reading and did well in school. Now, often we discuss and recommend books to each other.

During my 34-year teaching career, I tried to instill the love of reading in my elementary and middle school students. Sometimes that meant asking students to dig in and dissect a book, search for meaning, or look for similarities and differences between the characters and themselves. Sometimes that meant reading aloud, giving voice to the incredible stories that lay between the book covers.
1999, a few months before retiring

I will always cherish the memory of a group of 8th graders who listened, begged for me to read, and cried at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows. When they came to class the day after the movie aired on TV, many were incredulous over the differences between the movie and the story they’d heard. “They changed it! The book was way better!”

Today, I belong to three book groups. Sometimes the books chosen overlap, and groups read the same selection during the year. At other times, I’m juggling two or three different ones and then fitting in others that I choose to read for pleasure or enlightenment. This past couple of years, I’ve read some outstanding and inspiring stories; I’ll list a few titles below.

I recently re-read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God, lingering over her delightful language and imagery on this third time around. It was like visiting with an old friend.

What impact has reading had on your life? What have you read lately that you would recommend?
~ xoA ~
A Short List of Recent Favorites:
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
Into the Beautiful North, Luis Urrea
Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCrullers
Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
When Women were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams
Wild, Cheryl Strayed


  1. Ah, this post has me remembering how much I loved reading mysteries when I was a kid: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden. And I discovered a series of books that all involved Irish setters, which I thought was wonderful because I wasn't allowed to have a dog. Can't remember the name of those anymore.
    I just got Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked, and am looking forward to it. I also picked up a copy of Maddie on Things (another dog book - life theme?). I cannot imagine a life without books to magically transport me outside of my own experience.

    1. Oh, Kathleen, I'd forgotten about Trixie Belden! I'm just getting into a dog book myself, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Thanks for your note. xoA

  2. Reading was all that I did as a kid...besides writing. I always wanted to be around books. I was a library assistant in middle school, My first job was a library, in college and after college I worked in Libraries all so that I could be near books.

    1. You got your library fix, Donnee! How lucky for you and all those folks who worked at and patronized the library. Thanks for your comment and sharing with us. xoA

  3. As a child I read The Happy Hollisters series. Most people have never heard of them, but I loved each and every one of them.
    I read a lot to my kids when they were young. My daughter loved to read and many times I'd catch her under the covers reading with a flashlight into the wee hours of the night when she was young.
    I still enjoy reading, usually several different books at a time.

    1. I'm wondering if I did come across the Happy Hollisters, Joan. Cute about your daughter. The worst punishment I could give my girls was to take away their reading time at bedtime. I didn't have to do it too often, but when I did, they were devastated! Thank you for chiming in. xoA

  4. Oh I loved Anne of Green Gables and the entire series that followed. I did love my books and the library. My parents finally had to put a cap on the number of books I was allowed to check out. They were certain I'd end up losing one or more given the height of my library stack (never did though!).

    1. Anna, my parents questioned the number of books I checked out from the library, but thankfully, they never imposed a limit. Thanks for sharing your story. xoA

  5. My aging eyes don't seem to let me read like I used to. But I use audio books (downloaded from LibriVox) on the treadmill and in the car. And I have a comfy chair, with a bright light, that's only used for reading. And I make time each day to sit in that chair. Though the book I'm working on now, loaned to me by a friend, hasn't been drawing me there too much. But I'm almost done with that book.

    1. I like that idea of a designated reading space. Are you a person who must finish a book that he starts? Not me. Unless it's an assignment or I am going to have to discuss it with someone, if it's a book that "hasn't been drawing me there too much", I will close it and move on to another. Thank you for your comments. xoA

  6. I share your love for libraries Annis. Who would have thought I would even find one today at CBCC (Comprehensive Cancer and Blood Center)? I passed the darkened room full of books while taking my husband into radiation treatment and when they showed me the small waiting area, where others were waiting and watching a noon day soap opera, I asked if they would mind if I waited in the library area and they were nice enough to let me. I flicked the light on and made myself at home. Because really I am always at home in a room full of books.:)

    1. Love that last line of yours, Iola. I'd rather be in a room full of books any day rather than watching any tv in a waiting room. Thanks for writing. xoA