I’m one of those mothers that feels guilty if her child watches TV for more than an hour in one day, movie night aside. My feelings may be a bit on the extreme side, but I do feel guilty… and I’m finding recently that it’s happened all too often.
For the past couple weeks my family has been feeling rather sick and it always seems that when we get sick (especially Neylan) we watch Invader Zim marathons to make it seem like we are having a little bit of fun. Believe it or not, this tradition started when Neylan came down with the stomach flu that was going around a few months ago. In between fits of vomiting he was at least a little bit happy because we were watching one of Daddy’s favorite shows.
TV is the exact opposite of what I am going to write about today, which is probably why I started out there. When I let Ney watch too much TV, he’s watching TV rather than reading books with me.
I can’t even really remember why or when I became such a book lover, but according to my mother, I hated reading when I was young. I do remember, however, when I was about 7 years old that my Grandmother gave me my first set of American Girl books. The Felicity books were very quickly picked up and loved. I read through the entire set. I eventually got the Kirsten and Samantha sets and completely devoured them also.
When I was somewhere between 10 and 12, I started the fad of most children that age and I read books that were in a series. I read Nancy Drew books like they were not going to be published anymore; You couldn’t get one out of my hands. I also read many of the Goosebumps and Fear Street books by R.L. Stine.
Through middle school I read a lot of assigned reading, but also a lot of books on the side. One of my favorite books was read in 8th grade: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You know you love a book when you not only remember the title and content of it, but care so much for this wonderful creation that the author’s name is also embedded in your brain. In 8th grade, these three things were my life: Jeff Gordon, my rooster (also named Jeff), and To Kill a Mockingbird. I ate it, slept it, and breathed it. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird so much that I begged my mother to get a copy of it for me.
I was also constantly reading Paul Zindel books. My 8th grade Lit. teacher had us read The Pigman by Paul Zindel and it must have spoken to me, because the next thing he knew I was borrowing Paul Zindel books out of his own private collection. He was literally bringing them in from home. That school year I went through The Pigman, The Pigman’s Legacy, The Pigman and Me, The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas, and I Never Loved Your Mind. He even let me keep a few because of just how many I read.
I will admit, though, that when I got to 9th and 10th grades, reading was not as appealing. I focused mainly on singing, but I also had major issues with the books that were chosen for me to read. I HATED Lord of the Flies, mainly because of the topics discussed. I also didn’t like Fahrenheit 451… then… I read about a quarter of it and then refused to read the rest, again, because of the topic (burning of books and censorship).
I spent most of 11th and 12th grade sucked into the Bible, reading chapters every night and doing in-depth study of it, but I also did Summer reading. In college I brought books home during winter break.
It was during college that I actually read Fahrenheit 451. My husband, then boyfriend, asked me to read it because it was one of his favorite books. It took some grinning and bearing to fall into it because I still really hated the topics being discussed, just like I did in high school. When I fell into the book though, I fell hard and I realized that you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or even judge it by the first few chapters.
I loved how Ray Bradbury handled the topic of relying too much on technology… I noticed in the book that people were not only sucked into it, but they relied on it for everything. Montag’s wife Mildred’s entire “happiness” (I use that lightly, as she did try to commit suicide multiple times), came from her television set(s), which took up a total of three walls. It was not only her source of shallow entertainment, but she calls it her”family” and she routinely talked to it.
Throughout the book, you see Guy Montag go from a proud “Fireman” (A.K.A. book burner) to a man who “becomes” 2 books (Ecclesiastes and Revelation), just so they are saved and never forgotten. The reason for Montag’s transformation is a girl named Clarisse. Clarisse is a spunky thought-filled girl of 17. She doesn’t ask the normal “how”, but instead asks “why”.
I don’t want to get into the book anymore than I have, because if you haven’t read it, YOU SHOULD. It was a very thought provoking read for me then and it is still thought provoking to this day.
As I watch my child grow, do I want him to be a later Montag or a Mildred. I know that it all has to do with how I raise him. Do I want him to look for things for himself (Montag) or to just ingest and believe everything he sees on TV (Mildred)? Do I want him to fight for freedom of speech and press (Montag) or to do things according to what everyone else says and squash the dissenters (Mildred)? Do I want him to learn to think outside the box (Montag) or to not think at all and have everything put into his brain in some other way (Mildred)?
I think that Ray Bradbury said it best:
Megan A.K.A. “Clarisse”
This post is DEDICATED to Ray Bradbury.
August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012
Thank you for your amazing works.