My grandparents’ basement is a magical place. Always cool in summer, it’s filled with piles of old movie posters from our family cinema, worn furniture, old games and photographs, a bust of Theodor Herzl, and shelves full of books.
There are stray books from my mom’s and aunt’s college classes alongside some YA paperbacks from my teenage years. But the gems of the collection are the 1950s hardcover editions of popular children’s series such as the Bobbsey Twins, Dana Girls, and Nancy Drew.
There is something special about summer reading.
I spent hours in July and August in this basement, reading on the cool sofa while munching on handfuls of peanut M & Ms I brought from the candy dish upstairs. I savored each of my mom’s childhood books, which seemed to take me back to an old-fashioned time when girls wore interesting clothes and life seemed orderly and enjoyable even though mysteries arose everywhere.
When friends came, we would go down to the basement with tons of Babysitters Club books and swap them as we finished them.
There were some books that I reread summer after summer: a novel about a time-traveling girl in Victorian New York; an entertaining memoir from one of the cast of “The Brady Bunch”.
Publishers have built an entire industry around summer books and beach readings, but I think whatever genre you get lost in, it’s common for our summer reading lives to be nostalgic. , the escape and the memory of the pleasure of childhood.
My kids seem to be making big strides in their reading lives every summer. Last year my 8 year old started his first series of chapter books (Hilo graphic novels), and this summer is his first time independently reading a chapter book that is not illustrated. .
I’m delighted to say that the novel that caught Nate’s attention is “Sideways Stories From Wayside School,” a weird, funny and entertaining Louis Sachar classic that’s timeless and, without a doubt, a summer pick of first order. (Note to Millennials: A fourth book in the Wayside School series came out last year.)
My 5 year old son Harvey makes huge strides in his reading life because of his reading.
When Nate was the same age, I firmly believed in forcing him to start reading too young, and it would take another year and a little bit of encouragement before he read on his own. Once started he couldn’t be stopped and I’m glad we let him go at his pace.
But it’s nice to see Harvey more or less learning to read, and it’s also a great relief to know that I won’t have to push him to a certain level in school because he’s already there.
Recently my kids picked out a book from my grandparents: a puzzle book from the 50s that has chestnuts like, “Why does a dirty kid like flannel?” Because he’s hesitant to wash ”and“ What’s the difference between a busy typist and 16 ounces of flour? One pound further; the other weighs a pound. Nate and Harvey can’t seem to make a head or a tail, which I’m glad because a lot of the “humor” in this book is dripping with sexism.
Nancy Drew’s old books also contain outdated representations of race and gender that I don’t want to pass on to my own children. It’s fine, however, to leave Nancy behind, because Nancy was never great literature.
The purpose of reading the books was to imagine yourself as Nancy, with her car and her boyfriend, running to the end of each book to find a thriller, and wanting the next and the next and the next. .
My mom loved Nancy Drew so much that she gave me her name.
And to this day, she’s a voracious reader.
She gave me Nancy Drew books when I was young, but when I grew up she handed me Brontë. I can’t wait for my kids to read books, love them and reject them as they move on to bigger and better things.