Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest blog by Author Stephen V. Masse

For a kid who grew up in a house full of books and music, I must admit I was a reluctant reader. I loved stories, but preferred them to be read to me. My mother must still remember word-for-word many stories she read to me dozens of times. My father often made up stories to tell me. When I was six, (first grade) I learned to read for myself. My older brother was a quick study and learned to read when he was four. But I was somewhat hyperactive, and preferred playing outdoors to reading. Stories that were short and highly illustrated were okay, chapter books were punishment pretty much right through grammar school. One of the books I remember best was THE BOXCAR CHILDREN, read to the class by our fourth grade teacher. I loved that book, even though I didn’t read it for myself.

My mother had an uphill battle on her hands. It was part of the job description of being a kid in our family to go to the library every 2 weeks, and get 2 books to read. I mostly wimped out and got short illustrated books from Doctor Seuss and the like. Most of the books I got from the library ended up on top of a bureau or under the bed until they were overdue. Unread. I did start to enjoy the Danny Dunn series in fifth or sixth grade, and got my imagination so fired up that I would go off and write my own Danny Dunn stories. Filling 3 pages in those days took about as much of me as filling 300 now. My parents were highly amused that I would write so vigorously and read so . . . not.

On Saturdays we would go to the Charlestown Boys Club, where my father had a part-time job. Weekdays he taught English at a junior high school, nights he was a bartender, and Saturdays he worked the “games room” at the boys club, where a hundred boys played pool, checkers, chess, watched “Fury” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost” on TV, and had fistfights. The games room could also be set up as an auditorium, and each Saturday afternoon the room would be darkened for a movie. We got into the movie free if we helped set up the folding chairs. Upstairs was the Boys Club Library, where “Miss D” presided at her old oak desk. “Miss D” was actually Mrs. DeSimone, who cleverly got us to read by starting a reading club. If you read five books, you would get a prize. After reading each book, you had to go to her desk, where she would go through the book with you and ask a few questions, and then she would record it on your record. I don’t remember how many books I read there, nor do I remember the prizes, but I clearly remember “Miss D.”

The big change came in eighth grade. One evening my parents discovered that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was on TV, and I watched it with them. When my father told me that there was also a book, and he could get it for me at his school, I jumped at the chance. I devoured the book and decided that reading was an open door to an incredible world that I wanted to be a part of, and it’s been that way since.

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