Little known fact, especially to those who didn’t know me as a kid: I lived for four years in the Cariboo city (town?) of Williams Lake, BC when my stepdad accepted a transfer and a promotion to be a probation officer.
Williams Lake is near the centre of the province, which is basically nowhere-land since almost all of the province’s population is within a few hundred miles of the US / Canada border. The city would have you believe it is a great place to “hang up your hat” and is apparently “picturesque and progressive”. Check out these tourism videos from their website. It looks pretty nice nowadays, and last year when we skirted through town on our way to Smithers as a part of our epic camping trip, it looked vastly improved.
The Williams Lake I lived in was none of that, however. It was rough and tumble, had massive social problems, many cultural rifts with the First Nations people of the area, featured beehive burners all through town, always felt dirty and had awful water, and was hardly a desirable location.
But there was good in that town. I had a great school (which burned down in 2007 – a picture set of the damage is here), and I learned how to cross country ski. I played soccer for the first time, a sport that stayed with me into adulthood, and enjoyed hiking and camping with the Girl Guides. I was glad to move back “home” when my stepdad accepted another transfer back to the coast, but Williams Lake wasn’t a bad place to live from 8-12 years old.
One of my most clear memories of the town was a place called the Cariboo Book Bin (which apparently last December was sold and has re-opened as a Christian Used Book Store). As an avid reader, our family budget didn’t allow for me to buy brand new books as quickly as I sped through them, and so almost every weekend, my mom would take me to the Book Bin.
At the Book Bin, I would trade in books for credit toward other used books. Pretty much every week I would return with another bagful of my beloved Archie comics, eager to pore through crowded shelves and find Double Digests, Betty and Veronicas, and whatever other treasures I could find, like the Eric Wilson Mysteries series, Nancy Drew books, Donna Parker books, Black Stallion books, Sweet Valley High books, and others I am sure I’ve forgotten.
Through the Book Bin I learned about depreciation – Archie comics I bought for a dollar were only worth 75 cents when I brought them back, and even less if I wasn’t careful with them. I learned about supply and demand when I was told my copy of the comic I was hoping to trade was one they already had 10 copies of, and so was therefore less valuable. I used basic math – computing in my head what my bag might be worth as we walked toward the door. And I learned how to budget to a degree – knowing that my credit was worth four Jugheads and a Double Digest made me more selective with my weekly haul to satisfy my vociferous appetite for reading.
This week, here at Chez Arbo, our Scholastic book order came in and Kale sat down and read for an hour solid. He’s only recently started referring to himself as a reader and it makes me proud and so happy for him that this world has been opened, and that he controls the words he consumes. He has some favourites right now: Mo Willems‘ Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon series, the Scaredy Squirrel set of books by Melanie Watt, the Mr. Men series (which are kind of horrible now that I read them as an adult) but he loves all books and wants to read everything – books, signs, maps, the TV, words on screens, my emails – man, he LOVES reading. He begged me to sign him up for Summer Reading Club at the public library and is already off to a flying start putting in his time every day with joy and excitement.
I am so excited that his world has opened up this way. More than potty training or learning to hit a ball with a bat, this one is a huge, huge milestone and one that I’m so incredibly happy for him to have reached – this is life changing. Okay, potty training is big too – ha ha – but this is one he chose to work toward and one he takes pride in on his own and one he deserves all the credit for reaching.
- I tried to dig up a picture of me as an early reader. I know they exist but I have none digitally and couldn’t find any immediately in my albums to scan. Trust me, I was a serious book nerd. There are some very funny snaps of me with giant glasses, huge front teeth, a terrible bowl cut, and my nose shoved in a book.
- There were two reasons I felt good about being a book nerd in a world of kids teasing one another. One: my family was very supportive of me reading as much as I could. I was always given the option to go to the library and get new books, and my parents took an active role in asking me about what I was reading. And two, Reading Rainbow really reinforced and complemented what my parents would tell me. Have you seen that Reading Rainbow has a Kickstarter campaign on right now to bring it to the classroom for free for 7500 schools? I backed it, and hope you’ll consider doing it too. Check it out.