My parents have called me Bear as though it’s my name for as long as I can remember, but I am told that Glover Hudson (pictured with me above) was the one who gave me my nickname. He was our neighbor in McIntyre, Georgia, whom I visited often. He had a booming voice and would say, “There’s the Bear,” every time he saw me. I felt like a celebrity! I have always loved bears, and now I have claimed the bear as my spirit animal. Nurturing yet fierce sums me up well.
My journey with books and reading began at an early age. Books were mother’s milk to me. I was the guinea pig for my mother’s doctoral work as a reading specialist and learned to read at three years old. I was asked to read to Mama’s friends when they came over to play bridge and to read to my kindergarten class. Mama read to my sister and me every night, and some of my warmest childhood memories are of being snuggled up at bedtime, listening to her voice reading until I fell asleep.
My family lived in McIntyre, Georgia in Wilkinson County until I was in the third grade. There was no grocery store, nevermind a library or a bookstore. Still, our house was filled with books. Mama attended the Children’s Literature Conference in Athens, Georgia every year where she learned about all of the current books and authors. She met Caldecott and Newberry award winners, and she always brought home a signed book for my sister and me. There was nothing like having a beautiful book with an inscription from the author just for me! I was hooked! We received books for Christmas and birthdays, and they were much anticipated gifts. When I picked up a gift and could feel the hard cover and the slight indentation of the pages in between, I was consumed with knowing what it was.
Later, Mama worked as a curriculum director for the Wilkinson County Schools and would bring authors to visit and speak about their books. Best of all, because there weren’t many lodging options in Wilkinson County, the authors would stay at our house! They were celebrities to me but also “real people,” and I was mesmerized to hear anything they had to say, especially how they got their ideas for stories. I’m sure these visits played a large role in my desire to be a writer. We moved to Macon in the spring of my third grade year. Then, it became a treat to go to Waldenbooks in the Macon Mall. The smell of new books was distinct and enticing. I could happily sit on the floor and read while Mama perused the shelves.
Now, there are many ways to get books and to interact with them–libraries, chain bookstores, used bookstores, indie bookstores, online ordering, e-books, and audiobooks to name a few. Thanks to Mama and others, Wilkinson County has libraries now.
For me, books are for entertainment, inquiry, connection, and even therapy. I believe books linger and become part of readers. Whatever your reasons for reading, and however you get your reading fix, I look forward to walking the journey with you.