Happy Book Lover’s Day! What Is It That You Love About Books?

In honor of Book Lover’s Day on August 9th, some fellow writing and blogging friends and I are sharing what books mean to us and how we enjoy them. I encourage you to visit their pages as well, listed at the end of this post.

What do books mean to you? Do books and reading hold a special place or memories in your life?

My reading adventures began at a very early age. Diagnosed with a bone disease at age two and going on crutches and then into a wheelchair for several years at age three, my Mother took it upon herself to develop a love of books and reading with me, starting at a time earlier than I can remember. By the time I entered school, I was already reading several levels ahead of classmates.

Looking back, I readily recall five books that not only changed my life, but also continue to influence the interests, choices and decisions I make today.  And that is why I am such a staunch supporter of children’s literacy, advocating reading to children from the earliest age, helping them to get started reading, and then continuing reading with them well after they are reading on their own to show continued interest and guidance.

          “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”  – George Bernard Shaw

The five books most instrumental in guiding my life were –

  • “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper. I do not know how many (hundreds?) of times this story was read to me and later by me over the years, but the lesson for a young boy in a wheelchair was clear – “Never give up and you can make it over the mountain, too!”
  • “The Legends of Davy Crockett” put out by Walt Disney. Looking back, the story may have been sanitized a bit by Disney, but the examples were clear, and what better early hero for a young boy growing up in the 1950s than Davy Crockett. His motto became a guide thru later life – “Be always sure you’re right – then go ahead.”
  • “Hammond’s Nature Encyclopedia of America” from 1960. This large book, ordered thru the mail by my Mother, complete with 320 original painting illustrations became my introduction and foundation for study of the natural world, with detailed pictures and information on everything from minerals and rocks, to every classification of animal, geography, trees and plants, climate and more. It was the largest book I had ever seen. I lived with this book in my lap, studying all the wonders of nature, forming a life-long interest and passion.
  • “The Boy Scout Handbook” – This book became my constant study guide for years thru the Boy Scouts, ultimately reaching the rank of Eagle Scout. Thru this book and the scouts, I learned independence, leadership, and a way of life built on character and service to others, while also greatly advancing my interests in the natural world, the wilderness and conservation.
  • “Two Years Before the Mast” – A memoir written by the American author Richard Henry Dana Jr. and published in 1840, captivated my imagination like no other book I had read before. By this time, I had already read “Moby Dick”, “Tom Sawyer”, and “Huckleberry Finn”, all beloved classics, especially those and others by Mark Twain, my favorite storytelling author. But I was familiar with all those stories before reading the books. “Two Years Before the Mast”, recalling a two-year sea voyage from Boston to California on a merchant ship starting in 1834, was a fresh story and greatly impressed upon me how powerful and fun storytelling could be.

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” – Marcel Proust

That is why I love books and developing a life-long love of reading with children. Books have quite simply and profoundly impacted and changed my life.  An old saying goes — “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  I believe the same about books.

I can see clearly now how these five books have worked together, each contributing their parts, to both form the foundation and heavily influence my “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, combining nature and conservation themes with good old-fashioned family and Boy Scout values, with white-knuckled fun and adventurous storytelling to keep it interesting. Mark Twain helps a lot, too.

So – Happy Book Lover’s Day!  I encourage you to make a nice cup of tea (or beverage of choice) and sit down with a good book today.  And if there is a little one around, grab them up for a reading session, too.

I encourage you to visit my wonderful blogger friends next, who will inspire and make you smile with their personal Book Love thoughts.

Cat Michaels — Cat’s Corner Blog

Rebecca Lyndsey — Author Rebecca Lyndsey Blog

Carmela Dutra — Carmela Dutra’s Blog

Julie Gorges — Baby Boomer Bliss

Rosie Russell — Books by Rose

Thanks as always for reading and visiting with us!  Be the reason someone smiles today!  — Jim (and Red!)


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“So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky.” — William James

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”     — Jacqueline Kennedy


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” — Neil Gaiman


 

 

Saturday Morning Doughnuts — Supporting Our Children

Could you turn down a smiling young lad dressed in a Cub Scout uniform at your door on a Saturday morning with a box of fresh doughnuts in hand?

Back in the day, my father worked out an arrangement with a local doughnut shop, and our Cub Scout Pack would sell boxes and boxes and boxes of glazed and other doughnuts door-to-door thru the subdivisions to raise money for activities. I imagine no one probably does that anymore.

Most folks were excited to have fresh doughnuts delivered to the door on a Saturday morning, with many eagerly awaiting our scheduled rounds each first and third Saturday.  Although, we always ran the risk of waking someone intent on sleeping in and catching them before their first morning cup of coffee.  Which was unfortunate for everyone. Undaunted, we would just march quickly on to the next house, doughnut box in hand.

During winter months, we would hold paper drives, running door-to-door collecting old newspapers to recycle and raise money.  In the days when everyone still got a morning newspaper, of course.

On my own, my mother taught me how to make handwoven loop potholders and I starting selling them door-to-door to raise my own money for scouting activities and camps around age nine, and then added taking orders for personalized Christmas Cards a couple years later.

And maybe that is why I am so receptive to kids out selling items to raise money for Scouting and School activities, and always try to buy their Candy Bars, Girl Scout Cookies, Popcorn and the like, never dismissing or passing them by.  There is so much more to it and behind the programs than just handing over a couple of bucks for a candy bar.

It is important to support not only beneficial activities for children in our local community, but also to reward their motivation, planning, time invested and efforts to raise the money themselves, as opposed to simply asking for a handout, while learning life skills and developing character in the process.

If they are demonstrating initiative and the personal gumption to be willing to go door-to-door or stand in front of a supermarket in the elements for hours and hours working to raise money for their organization while they could be at home playing video games on the couch, then I am more than willing to help them out and always carry a few dollars cash with me just for that purpose.  And I usually get a candy bar or box of cookies as a reward in return. A win-win for everyone involved the way I see it!

Admittedly on occasion, sometimes they may be offering something I do not want or have no need for, and in those cases merely hand the item back to the supervising parent to resell for more profit while still supporting their program and efforts.

So the next time a cheery little Scout, band member or neighborhood kid filled with hopeful anticipation knocks on your door, greets you at the supermarket, or sets up a lemonade stand or car wash for a cause, please consider helping them out.

You will be supporting not only the program and cause, but also helping to reward, encourage and teach important life lessons to a young child at the same time. Truly a win-win for the community, even without the cookies or candy bar.  And well worth a few bucks, don’t you think?

Thanks as always for reading and visiting with us here, and very best wishes for a wonderful day! —  Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

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Peace  —  Compassion  —  Kindness  —  Love

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Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.
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On Cats, Guitars, Wood, Trains & Fruitcake!

A few days ago, a wonderful ‘net friend tagged me on Facebook and asked me to share five things about myself. You can find out more about me any time on my very appropriately named “About Me” page, if you like.  Just click on the link at the top of the right column.

Despite never wanting to be “the story” or make it about me personally here, she asked so nicely and is such a great friend that I figured– “why not?”  It’s all about getting acquainted, after all.  Our “neighborhood” seems to grow larger every day with modern technology.  So, here is a little more with some other things you won’t find on the About.Me page:

I am an Eagle Scout from years ago, was making fires without matches long before it became a survival craze on television, learned to tie my own flies and fishing lures as a kid, and love the outdoors, nature, plants and creatures big and small. But Cats are my Kryptonite.

Hyper allergic to them, I contracted pneumonia twice in six months picking up cat dander from co-workers’ clothing, and a lung infection attending a wedding reception at a home after three cats had been removed from the house ahead of time for the party. Don’t even have to see them. The latest incident almost put me in a hospital a few years ago with allergic asthma after being in a home for less than ten minutes, not knowing there was a cat in the basement. Trust me, breathing is not overrated.

I have nothing against cats, but apparently the feeling is not reciprocated. Perhaps they hold a grudge from a prior life. They do have nine after all. That’s a lot of memories.

Cat in a Plant

Cat in a Plant

I started taking guitar lessons at age 11 and then started teaching with my first job at 14.  I worked full time nights and weekends in a music store as teacher and then assistant manager all thru high school. I started as a guitar instructor, then taught bass guitar, mandolin and banjo as the need arose and the owner insisted, sometimes teaching myself two lessons ahead of my students.  I even filled in a few emergency piano lessons when our retired piano teacher had a medical emergency.  No pressure. My specialty became teaching very young children, adults (oddly enough), and children with learning disabilities. You know me, big on patience and encouragement. Especially those adults!

I put myself thru college with a combination of scholarships, working full time teaching music, delivering pianos and helping run the store, and playing music with various bands on weekend nights, burning the candle at both ends between homework and job work. Along with two hot summers working in a non-air-conditioned factory. Playing music was more enjoyable than the hot factory, but unfortunately paid a lot less.

And an interesting aside, despite what customers represent when ordering, from my experience no one ever has a piano delivered to the ground floor. Ever. “Yeah, no problems. Just the two of you can handle it. Easy. Just right off the truck and in the door.” Curiously, the “and three flights up” or “down in the basement with a turn” is never mentioned, so an extra helper or two could be brought along.  Flights of stairs.  Never mentioned.  Ever.

Piano Mover 1

With all the things I make and do, Wood Carving and Sculpture is my favorite activity, although not doing it right now following recent moves. I love the smells and aromas of different exotic woods, especially mahogany, walnut and cherry. I am not into entering award competitions or contests at all, but won Second Place in a juried art show several years ago with a “Modern Torso in American Black Walnut” sculpture when a friend entered my piece to support their arts group show. I think the piece is still around. Somewhere. Maybe.

Wood Sculpture- Spirit Bear and Woman Forest Wood Sculpture by ShapingSpirit

Wood Sculpture- Spirit Bear and Woman Forest Wood Sculpture by ShapingSpirit

I am a lover of all things “Trains”, especially the steam era, and an avid model railroader since early childhood, making my own buildings, scenery, and rolling stock (train cars for the lay person) by hand. I once built a layout with mountains, tunnels, and a real working waterfall by converting a garden fountain. Oddly enough, real water doesn’t look “real” in a display so won’t be doing that again, but the waterfall part was pretty cool. I started off at age 5 with Lionel and Marx trains which I still have, and moved on to my preferred gauge of HO because I could do more in less space.

Model Trains- Pete Smith Sn3 Layout

Model Trains- Pete Smith Sn3 Layout

I am not ashamed to admit it—I love Fruitcake. No fruitcake has ever been in danger of being used as a doorstop in my home. Pound for pound, the most valuable thing ever made by the hands of man. Or mothers. The fruitier and nuttier the better. My Mother made the best fruitcakes I have ever had and I was raised on bourbon and rum soaked fruitcakes all my life. My idea of the ideal Christmas present, for me, is a Fruitcake. Or two. They say we become what we eat. I am open to the possibility of becoming nutty as a fruitcake. A risk I am willing to take. I love Fruitcake. Deal with it.

Nutty as a Fruitcake!

Nutty as a Fruitcake!

So that’s five things. It’s a shame I was limited to five, because number six was really juicy, and a bit salacious. Perhaps for another list and time. However, here are a couple small bonus points if you like—

Long before Willie Nelson sang about it, my heroes have always been Cowboys,  my close friend Little Red Bear is a very talkative bear who lives and relates his adventures in my head, and I was attacked by a herd of chiggers on a walk yesterday afternoon and the itching is driving me crazy! And as you probably have guessed by now, most days it’s a pretty short drive over easy ground.

The Little Cowpoke-- The "Cisco Kid's Mini-Me"

The Little Cowpoke– The “Cisco Kid’s Mini-Me”

And yes, the little Cowpoke in the picture is yours truly, the “Cisco Kid’s Mini-Me” from another time and territory. Saddle up, Cowboy.

Thanks as always for the visit and reading.  See ya ‘round the campfire!    Watch out for the Giant Chipmunks!    We’ll bring the marshmallows. — Jim (and Red!)

Around the Campfire

Around the Campfire

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.