Guest Blog Post by Mike Freeman
When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, and literally went to school in a two-room country schoolhouse. We were the real Waltons with eight children in a five-room house. Even going to town was a rarity, and I didn’t care to go anyway because standing around watching my sisters shop was not that thrilling. My brothers liked to hunt and fish but I didn’t. We didn’t have a television and videos didn’t exist.
One thing we did have was a set of the Great Illustrated Classics and I liked to read. Over and over again I journeyed down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, sought treasure with Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, fought duels with d’Artagnan, answered the call of the wild with Buck, and discovered those grim Grimm’s tales. If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing. All of these books fed the imagination of distant times, worlds and sites, and saved my childhood from utter boredom.
Once a month the bookmobile from the county library would appear at our school, and our teacher would select a single representative from each grade to select the books for the month. Though the student was instructed to select for everyone, a marked bias always seemed to surface. I just couldn’t believe the kinds of books those girls would choose.
Nonetheless, I was hooked and now years later, with English and History and Library Science degrees under my belt, I still can’t find enough time for the endless lists to read. Now that I am older, I sometimes revisit those old classics and marvel even now how well they still capture my attention. Reading is the opportunity to look into the minds and souls of people across the ages, and to ponder all the struggles that have created our modern world. Reading connects our common humanity, and makes us consider other points of view and ways of life. Mark Twain said that a man who won’t read is no better than a man who can’t read. I couldn’t say it better.
Mike Freeman is the Library Director at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. He holds a bachelors and MLS from University of Missouri, and his MA in History from the University of Utah. Prior to coming to UVU in 1993, Mike worked at the University of South Carolina and the Orem Public Library in Utah. He is an ardent Mark Twain fan.