Growing up, my house was always filled with books — many thick volumes with dark covers: Poems by Robert Frost, novels with names like “Jane Eyre” and “Gone with the Wind” and textbooks about European history. At 5 years of age, I associated these books with my mother, and with adulthood. My books were of the “Golden” variety, delightful little illustrated books that mom bought at the grocery store. I made her read “My Teddy Bear” so many times that I memorized it, telling everyone that “I know how to read!” That very same book now sits on a shelf in my own home, taped together along its spine, its pages worn after 60 years of being loved.
Though I enjoyed the books from our own home, my first trips to the local public and school libraries were transformative, turning me into an inquisitive, voracious reader. I have a strong memory of the first time I tried to check-out a book from the library. To be issued an official card and with it the ability to take books home, one had to be able to write her own name — not a nick name, like “Peggy,” but rather my legal name, “Margaret Dills.” Mastering those 13 letters, in the correct order, proved daunting, but after several days of practice, I succeeded in writing it correctly. The librarian, who would now be called “transgender,” but at the time was referred to as “a little bit different,” happily issued me my own coveted library card. Forevermore, that librarian was a trusted friend.
My library story pales in comparison to that of award-winning actress Viola Davis, who was recently interviewed by David Greene on National Public Radio. I was 5 when my mother drove me to the library, where I was rewarded with a library card. At 5 years of age, Davis lived in a condemned building in Rhode Island, sleeping with her sister on the top bunk to avoid the rats on the floor below. She found a way to escape from that misery. Every afternoon, she would leave her kindergarten classroom at the end of the day and walk to the public library. There, one of the kind librarians would save part of her lunch for Viola to eat. With a full stomach, Davis headed for the children’s section, curled up with a book, and was transported to other worlds. “Reading was the escape,” Davis says. “Reading was an escape into an imaginary world where none of those things existed — where I could recreate myself and I could recreate a life where I played a better role. And it’s that place, in reading, it was that place that sort of saved me — going to the library every day after school when I was [in] kindergarten, so 5 years old … by myself.”
One of Davis’s happiest library memories was reading …
Source: Hood River News – Cascade Observations: The magic of libraries