(A U.S.A. specific rant.)
When I was a little kid, growing up in the suburbs so far from Chicago they shouldn't be called suburbs, I had not a personality. None that mattered, anyway. The only thing I've retained from that time of my life is the fact that I find Dinosaurs interesting. And how interesting is that? Every little boy in this country finds them old bones interesting. Now, of course, my interest has a little more behind it.

I digress.

My family moved to Wisconsin when I was 10. The social structure of our little household was already coming apart at the seams. My brother hated me, so I had no one to talk to there. My parents, at that point, had only slightly more personality than I did, and therefore were no help. I was shunned at school, a tubby little outcast from another state. They'd formed their cliques before I'd arrived, of course, so there was no place for me on the playground, or in the classroom.

I'm not telling you this because I want sniffles. Sometimes at night I revel in the fact that between the ages of 10 and 14 I was, literally, all alone. Sometimes I wish I could be as disconnected from humanity as I was then. My purpose in telling you these things are so as to set the stage for this node, which was created to tell you how books made me into a person.

A 10 year old who is essentially alone in the world, but is not entirely stupid, needs something to turn to, obviously. If it had happened later in the 90's, I undoubtedly would have been able to turn to the internet, but this was 1990. I logged onto a BBS two years later, but there wasn't a whole lot for a kid my age at that point in time. So I started reading. I'd always been a reader, but just for fun. Now, books became what I was, rather than merely a diversion looked down upon by the rest of society.

What books? Any books I could get my hands on. Now, obviously, I was 10. I didn't understand everything in those novels, historical accounts, and pamphlets at that point, but it exposed me to humanity in a way I'd never been privy to before then.

Since none of the other children wanted anything to do with my fat ass, I took to reading on the playground. When I could hide it from the teachers, that is. Those wrong headed monkeys actually took books away from me. They said I needed to "run around and play with the other children". These people were clueless, and in some cases actively disliked me. 6th Grade was fun.

What's the point to this rant again? Oh yeah:
Even if you don't have time to be a good parent or teacher, let the kids around you read. Expose them to humanity early through reading, so their societal immune system is developed as quickly as possible. Apparently, kids are growing up faster and faster nowadays, and the sooner they're given the tools to think like individuals, the more prepared they'll be for that growth process.

This has been a public service message from the disaffected result of an uncaring society.
Don't let our kids turn out like us.

It was my second year of living in Germany as an army brat. The first year, my family lived in a remote village in the mountains, and during the second year, when I was 10 years old, we moved to the Air Force base at Frankfurt am Main This was in the dark ages, Gutenberg's new printing press was still wowing the masses (circa 1961). There were no television stations in English at that time and my family had put our tv set in storage when we moved. I did have access to American Services Radio, but it was wholly inadequate mental stimulation.

I was already a fairly ambitious reader, having learned before I started public school. My fifth grade teacher told the class that we could turn in as many book reports as we wanted to that year. I not only had access to the library at the elementary school, but now that we lived in the city, I had access to the base library. I invested the nickels and dimes I earned in flashlight batteries and read incessantly. I discovered the wide range of data available in fiction and non-fiction. I discovered Shakespeare, Darwin, science fiction and romance novels - (I had to hide those - my mother thought I was too young for their racy nature.) I fell in love with information. I also turned in 200 book reports that year - merely because the teacher didn't believe I could when I told her my goal was over 100.

I am still a prolific reader - averaging 8 books or more per month. I still love information. I love stories. I love the pictures my mind evolves for me as I read. My son learned to read when he was four. I read to him nightly until he was 8 or 9, and at almost 19, is still an avid reader of multiple subjects. It used to be a joke in my family, when my son was young and he or one of his cousins asked me a question, my answer would usually include ". . . and I have a book. . ." so that when other of my siblings were in the room and a kid asked a question, they would answer "Your aunt has a book."

This has been a public service message from a reader who is happy that her son turned out (a bit) like her.

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