• When he was a child, Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, played at his mother’s beauty shop — their apartment was on the floor above. One day, a mother and her very young daughter came in, and as the mother was getting her hair done, her daughter kept crying. Young Danny tried to play with her, but nothing stopped her crying. Finally, he went upstairs, got an armload of books, and started “reading” one of the books to the young girl, who stopped crying as he said, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess ….” The girl’s mother was impressed and thought that young Danny could read, even though he was only three and a half years old. She even thought that he was a genius! But of course, there was a trick — his mother had read the books so many times to him that he had memorized them. Later, after Daniel was still very young but had learned how to read, his father ran a junk salvage operation. Sometimes Daniel’s father took him to the junk shop, where he was fascinated by Book Mountain — a huge pile of books that were to be baled, then pulped to make cheap paper. One of Daniel’s treats was to climb Book Mountain, look over the books to see which were worth saving, and take home with him six or seven books to read.
• When she was very little, Sarah Hughes, the gold-winning medalist in women’s figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, was unwilling to be left behind with a sitter while her mother and older siblings went to interesting places — such as the ice skating rink. If she ever thought that she might be left behind with a sitter, she would dress herself and wait by the door. Eventually, her mother and older siblings would show up and be forced to take little Sarah with them. Being so motivated to skate helped three-year-old Sarah learn things — such as how to tie her shoes. On an early trip to the rink, her mother tied Sarah’s ice skates first, and little Sarah jumped up and ran to the rink, with her mother — who was pregnant — vainly trying to catch up to her. On the next trip to the rink, her mother thought that she would tie Sarah’s ice skates last; that way, Sarah would be forced to wait until her mother could keep an eye on her. It didn’t work. Sarah pulled the laces tight, then concentrated. She figured out how to tie her ice skates, jumped up, and ran to the rink.
• When he was three years old, children’s book author Tomie dePaola attended the birthday party of Buddy, his older brother. For this party, their mother wanted to have a Tiny Tot Wedding, complete with a little groom and a littler bride. However, Buddy didn’t want to be the groom, and since it was his birthday, his mother said that he didn’t have to and she would ask another boy to be the groom. Unfortunately, Buddy got the other boys to say that they didn’t want to be the groom, either. That left young Tomie, who said that he was too short to be the groom — since he was only three years old, that was true. Nevertheless, Buddy and Tomie’s mother was resourceful. Carol Crane, the tallest girl at the party, made a wonderful groom, and standing beside her was a shorter bride. A woman asked Buddy who the pretty little bride was, and he replied, “That bride is my brother.”
• When children’s book author Judy Blume was growing up, she was very much into reading and loved the library. (She even imitated the librarians by pasting card pockets inside the back covers of her personal copies of books.) Her parents encouraged her to read, although her mother told her that she had to be older to read John O’Hara’s A Rage to Live. When Judy was older and a junior in high school, she was delighted to find out that she had to read a book — any book — by John O’Hara, and she marched to the library to borrow A Rage to Live. Unfortunately, the librarian told her that A Rage to Live was on a restricted shelf and so Judy would have to have her mother’s written permission to borrow the book. Judy complained to her family, and her aunt lent her a copy of the book. Judy read it, then she read everything else she could find by Mr. O’Hara.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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