When I was a child, one of the highlights of the trip to visit my grandmother was the library, just across the street from her home. It was close enough that, even when we were quite young, my mother would let my sister and me visit by ourselves. And visit I would — my sister, I think, liked the adventure of crossing the street — often daily. Down into the library’s crisp bowels, the smell of gummy-handed kids from years past.
I loved that library, and I loved to read. I remember when, also during a summer, I went from stringing together words on signs and sides of cereal boxes to reading books. It was so joyous, so addictive, that I didn’t want to do anything else. In three weeks, I, as in a fever dream, clipped through every single Nancy Drew book, a large portion of the Hardy Boys series, and a decent selection of the Bobbsey Twins. It was so heady — in beach or backyard, I could be transported to another place.
I don’t pretend that Nancy Drew is great literature. And does it matter? For me, apparently, it didn’t. For young readers, any reading is good reading, studies show. But as students grow older, research suggests reading ought to be more intentional. I don’t want to dismiss that, but I also suspect that my reader’s high isn’t something experienced by many kids today, with tv and Internet and video games competing. And I have to think, anything that can serve as a gateway drug — well, that’s good reading.