by Carrie Kirk
It really wasn't so many summers ago that I mirrored my youngest son. I once was 10 years old with adult teeth my mouth hadn't quite grown into. I loved to watch TV but also could lose myself for hours exploring the pond behind our house. I swam. I biked. I ate snow cones. And like George, I loved to read. Voraciously. I devoured books.
Being the youngest (by many years) of four daughters [read: "Oops! Child"], I would join my mom in running a ton of errands, since I was too young to be left home alone, but too annoying to get my sisters to watch me.
She and I would climb into our wood-paneled station wagon and make the rounds on the northeast side -- grocery shopping at Jolly Foods, perusing the magazines and comic book selection at Hook's Drugstore, and then finishing up at the old Emerson Library, a 7,500-square-foot building at 3642 N. Emerson Ave. (In 2003, the Emerson Branch Library closed and reopened as the East 38th Street Branch Library, at 5420 E. 38th St.)
As soon as we would walk into the corner building, that distinct smell of books would hit me, and I knew where I was -- in one of the safest and most comfortable places known in my young life. My mother would go one direction (she had a thing for WWII history) and I another. And then after an hour or so, we would meet up at the check-out counter, weighted down by our small stack of books. We both looked forward to getting home, finding our candy bars at the bottom of the grocery sack and settling into a chair for book, break and bar. That is truly one of the most blissful memories of my life.
Thankfully, our libraries still offer the sanctity of books and space for children to escape to, especially during the hot, humid and, at times, stagnant summer months. Thirty-some years ago (Thirty-something! Really?), I would register for the reading program the library offered. Remarkably, beginning today, June 1, Indy's youth can do the same.
"Beatz and Bookz" is Indianapolis Public Library's 2015 Summer Reading Program, open to book lovers of all ages for a period of eight weeks.
It's easy stuff. A child or family can sign up at any library branch Summer Reading Desk and receive a Point Card. A reader can earn a total of no more than 600 points and use them to "earn" prizes. Maybe your child values an Animaze Stamp (40 points) over a Light-Up Happy Ball (50 points), or they're going for an Eiteljorg Museum Pass (90 points) -- it's their point card, their choice.
They can decide how to "spend" their points accrued from reading books at their reading level. Parents who read to their children can even earn points. I did this when my kids were young, and for years I would stash the Children's Museum Guild Haunted House Passes (125 points) into my wallet for months so we could seamlessly have a visit during October.
Things have changed a bit in those 30 years of good reading. When I did the program, I would meet with a librarian, with my books in hand, and I'd give a brief book report or synopsis of each. Now you only need to show the librarian your books, say "I read these" and get a stamp or punch on your point card. When I finished the program, I earned a certificate that I would proudly hang up on my bedroom wall.
Now when George finishes the program at the end of July, he has compiled an assortment of things blinking, fizzing, bubbling and bouncing. Yes, times have changed and so too have various aspects of the summer reading program. But there remains the one constant: Libraries remain that safe and comfortable place for all of us to lose ourselves in, proving that our libraries continue to provide too many blissful memories to count for so many.