An Ode to Summer Reading

It was the summer of 1995. I was newly 8 and we had just moved from the panhandle of Florida to suburban Baltimore, MD. Ours was the second family to move into a new neighborhood and my sister and I were the only kids on our street. At some point after we got settled we did what would become my first priority every time my husband and I would move decades later--we got library cards.

Because it was summer, my sister and I signed up for the summer reading program at the local library which boasted activities designed to promote reading and prizes for reading certain numbers of books. Read 5 books, get a bookmark. Read 10 books and get a coupon for free ice cream. Years later I would wish one of those prizes had been fine forgiveness but alas that wasn't one of the offerings.

I was going in to 3rd grade and this was the first year I remember really having agency over my own reading life. I was at an age where my mom would turn me loose in the stacks and I could pick out whatever interested me and take it home to read. I didn't need help selecting titles and I wasn't counting on whatever books had been chosen for me.

I should mention we had no cable that summer. Our new neighborhood had yet to be outfitted with it and my mom called the cable company with weekly regularity, informing them they would not want to trifle with her if she had no cable come college football season. I believe they made an honest woman out of her by Labor Day but not a moment before. Thus the summer of 1995 was the summer of books and of The Orioles.

You know what you can watch with great regularity in the summer with no cable? Baseball. A lot of baseball. Being a sports family in the south means your only baseball team is the Braves and living far from Atlanta we were lukewarm on them at best. So the summer of '95 when Cal Ripken was chasing Lou Gerig's most consecutive games streak we became Orioles fans and despite having not lived in Maryland for 18 years, we still are.

When you move in the summer to a neighborhood with no kids, making friends takes time. We made friends with our newlywed neighbors who lucky for us loved baking and Disney movies but mostly, we lived in a sweet bubble just the four of us: mom, dad, my sister, and me. My mom stayed home with us so the summer was taken up with trips to the library, parks, running errands, and playing outside. We ended most nights at the local snowball stand or out back on the swing set all four of us built together at the start of that summer.

Our weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) library trips resulted in dozens of books read that summer. One after the other recorded on my summer reading log. I read about Felicity in the American Girl series. I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge by Judy Blume. I read Nancy Drew (I've always loved Nancy) and the Cam Jansen series of mysteries. All total I read 54 books that Summer, from June - August. I still remember the disbelief on the librarian's face when I turned in my logs.

I can't remember the prize I got for reading well above any of the goals set by the program. But I do remember that magical summer. The one that made me fall in love with reading, the Orioles, and the wonders of the library.

Nearly 25 years later, I still make almost weekly trips to my own library. This time I'm the mom and while I can't turn my girls loose in the stacks just yet, you can bet we're all signed up for summer reading. Because one of these summers they'll have their own love affair with books and words, libraries and baseball teams, and I can't wait.