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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Books Saved My Life

By Joyce Benedict

Where would I be today without the library systems in our schools and local bookstores?

My mother’s marriage to a navigator in the navy required moves all over the United States.From kindergarten to high school graduation I was never in one school system for more than two years. Besides no lasting friends made, my sisters and I were abused physically and mentally by both mother and stepfather.

No child was more miserable, frightened and lonely. Books in school libraries offered the only escape from such a misfortunate childhood. Not only had I discovered the incredible journeys I could take in reading, but that I simply loved to read.

It was through books that I began understanding that other children had difficult lives too, suffered, yet in time overcame their adversities.

In seventh grade in Shrewsbury, Missouri, I received the award for being the star reader of the entire seventh grade. One hundred twenty-five books read in one year. I was so proud. It was a flicker of light brought to my world filled with negativity, loneliness and pain.

Libraries and bookstores afforded the only places where fear wasn’t tapping me on the shoulder daily and where the smile, patience and ready help of a librarian or clerk brought the only feeling of acceptance, warmth and kindness seldom experienced.

Polio had struck at age four and even more influential were the worlds that I entered into of children and people both great and small who overcame tremendous challenges such as the deaf and blind, Helen Keller.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been stricken with polio in both legs became a giant among men leading us to victory in World War 11 and out of the Great Depression.

I read of a young boy grossly disfigured by a bear attack to endure 18 surgeries on face and hands who later became a fine classical pianist. After reading each and every tale of courage I would say quietly to myself, “If they could overcome such challenges, then so can I.”

In eighth grade my twin sisters and I moved back east to live with father and stepmother. A life now free from abuse, I began to blossom. Years of voluminous reading brought praise for my writing skills. I was elected secretary to our school government and got the lead in my senior high school play.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote often, “You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.” Years later, to still overcome fears and deep reserve, I applied to an historic site to give tours following two failed marriages.

A few years of shivering and shaking, I became an accomplished public speaker. I had done the very thing I thought I could never do. Without books to be inspired by the greatness of others, where would I be today?

How many millions of other children from all walks of life have been awakened to their destiny through books? Without them, say goodbye to civilization, inspiration and enlightenment.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Nice to see you back, Joyce.I enjoyed reading your post. I did not suffer the childhood trauma, but I was a gawky, geeky teen-ager living out in the country whose loneliness was assuaged by reading (and music).I still read voraciously--probably 100 a year or more.

OMG, I hardly know how to respond because I feel the same as you about books, yet never experienced a childhood such as yours. I'm so glad books "rescued" you. Dee

I am so glad you overcame your childhood trauma. I grew up in a very happy home but I can feel your pain. Reading books as a child and teenager was very important in my life, too, although I did not match your record.

Wonderful to read your words this morning. I, too, was rescued by books as a small child. When the arguments got loud it was time to climb into a book. When the moves (15 schools in 12 years) became many, I was rescued by the knowledge I'd picked up and the librarian friends I had made everywhere. There's still an open book in nearly every room in my home.

I'm another one who learned to read (starting with Dick and Jane primers) and still reads voraciously. I wasn't abused, but I was a geeky very near-sighted girl with thick "coke-bottle" glasses.

So much comes from reading. Like Joyce,I learned to write well, and more recently, I became good at public speaking.

I also was not abused but had severe dyslexia and had a very difficult time learning to read; however I enjoy reading now, at least one book a week in which I can loose myself. Please let's not let the internet take over libraries.

I, too, thrived because of reading. But I found out recently that the library at the school where I grew up has been replaced as books are now able to be downloaded on Ipads. Now the old library looks like a coffee shop. I fear what the impact will be of removing books from the quick hands of children, and few will know the quiet joys of escaping in a book all because some administrator who thinks s/he's acting with foresight dismantles a school library. Great blog post.

"Without them, say goodbye to civilization, inspiration and enlightenment." I would add the word imagination to that list. Children are living in a world of screens these days where much of the imaging is done for them. It makes me wonder how troubled children are being saved these days. Thanks for this fine tribute to books, Joyce.

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