"You shouldn't let her do that."

The second we entered the Children's & Young Adult reading room I'd squirm out of my dad's arms. At that point I was still about the size of a three year old but was actually between the ages of seven and ten; my manual wheelchair wasn't yet fold-able and so my parents thought  it easier to carry me everywhere in their arms. They'd set me down on the carpet and, as if I were in my own home, I'd comfortably do a crawl-hop around the bookshelves - pointing to the ones I wanted as my mom or dad took them out for me.

When I was much younger my mom would bring me to the library with her. Every week we'd come and she'd set me down on the soft red carpet, showing me how library books were organized by author last name, and how to tell which books were appropriate or good for me to read.
"You see how this label has the 'An I Can Read Book' on it? Those are the ones you should choose." Soon I would learn to not only find those labels, but also recognized the pictures on the cover and then the words of the title - unsurprisingly many of these books turned out to begin with Frog and Toad....
"Do you see this shiny medal sticker on the book? That's also a sign that it's a good book." Most of the time while she was doing that I was clambering on top of the over-sized stuffed Curious George that sat slumped in the corner. That was my routine every weekend, from when I could first confidently crawl-hop around until at least the first grade.

As immigrants to the country my parents didn't know what made-up the canon of children's literature in the U.S. So as I got older they were unable to choose books for me, couldn't decipher which were the 'good books', but still they would insist that I read all the time. Soon they entrusted my literary education to not only my teachers at school, but to the librarians and the reading lists organized by grade, kept filed away in a milk crate. My dad would pick a list and I'd simply make my way down it, crawl-hopping around to each of the towering red shelves. I'd crawl to the end of each shelf and from the ground look up at the index card taped to the side, following the instructions my mother had taught me years before about the alphabetization of author's last names.
Thinking about it now it must have been quite the odd little sight. There was me on the ground bunny- hopping around. My dad standing behind me with the list in hand following my lead, usually holding one of the little reference pencils (the ones that never have erasers) to cross off each title that I found. If I was only borrowing any less than four books I would shove them along in front of me, pushing them ahead on the floor like a stack of hockey pucks and then bunny-hop towards it. Being low to the ground I never paid any attention to the other adults around me, and the librarians all knew my name and were used to my 'peculiar way of doing things,' in fact if anything they loved my act! But once in awhile I would see the reaction another adult had whenever they saw what was going on,

"You know, you really shouldn't let her do that." I recall one lady telling my dad.
"Pardon?" My dad had set the stack of library books by the check-out counter and had picked me up while we stood in line.
"Why would you let your daughter crawl on the floor like that? It's dangerous and probably not very clean." She continued in one of those obvious-parental-styling voices.
"She's fine. She's not as young as she looks, she's eight, almost nine. It's not like she'll eat things off the floor. This is just the way she does things. She doesn't bring her wheelchair to the library." I watched my dad trying to explain and could see his words bounce off her face like rubber balls off a wall. It was pointless. Even at that age it was clear to me that she would never understand even if we spent all day explaining. And, perhaps more importantly, it was also clear to me that it didn't matter whether or not she understood my 'way of doing things.' My dad explained all that he felt he needed to explain, he spoke truthfully and defended his daughter's differences. That was all the situation required and as his child I learned that most of the time you won't ever get people to see your perspective, the point was that you tried and gave it your honest effort. And then you continue on doing your own thing because it works for you. At the time bunny-hopping and crawling around the library was what worked for me and that's all that mattered.

The line had moved on and it was our turn to check-out our books. I tugged forward and leaned towards the smiling librarian who was waiting for us, like a horse following the pull of its reins my dad walked up to the counter.
"Hi Sandy! Did you find everything you were looking for today?" I happily nodded at her and watched her scan the books, sliding it over the mysterious metal scanner and into a plastic bag. As my dad hoisted the bag over his shoulder and held me in his other arm I waved good-bye,
"Have fun reading these, I can't wait to see what you get next week!" 
Side Note: 
I can't stress how important reading is for children. Literacy and education are probably among my top three most important 'causes' in life. Every time I write another blog post I am always humbled by the comments and feedback I get, sometimes they are about the tips I offer and other times about the stories I share. Whenever someone compliments me on my ability to express myself though I always think back to those days that I shared above. Had I not been pushed to read, read, and read - this (among so many other things) probably would never have been possible to begin with. SO PLEASE, READ & READ TO YOUR CHILDREN!

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2 Responses to "You shouldn't let her do that."

  1. OMG, you are just like me. Especially my grandfather was always really pushing me into reading, he even taught me how to read before I went to school and he bought me books all the time. I do have noticed that many OI's are better than average at reading and languages and writing, most be because many of us had reading as a hobby instead of hockey. When I was in lower elementary school I was a regular at our library and I also remember how the librarians loved me, I must have been a cute little book worm. I think I read half of all the books they had there in the kids and young adults section. Quite weird looking back now, seems like now I don't have time at all to read! I think that after high school when I went to polytechnics school for a year (I dropped out because it really wasn't my dream, I'm now in a university...) and after that I was working for like 3 years and I didn't have that summer vacation anymore, I think I have some how lost the touch to books. Trying to catch up again. Even though now I have to concentrate on school books... :D Should probably do less Facebook & blogs and reading! Also, my blog was www.idamannisto.wordpress.com :) And I usually write in English, just the latest ones are in Finnish because it was Father's day and they are appointed to my Dad etc... :)

  2. Hey, thanks for the comments! That's so great to hear that there is also a fellow OI book nerd out there in the world =) I checked out your blog and it's pretty awesome! I just added it to my list of other OI blogs under "Ida's blog" thanks for joining in with me :-)


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