Magic to inspire children Favorites: Recollections of some well-known people show how the books they were exposed to in their childhood sparked an enduring passion for reading.

Reading Life

July 05, 1998|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Some of the most delightful childhood memories are born from the pages of a favorite book.

Many adults remember summer days spent galloping on the wild Black Stallion with young Alec Ramsay through the foamy surf of a remote island, or cold winter nights buried under the bedcovers with a flashlight to help the Hardy Boys unravel a mystery.

Some books are so magical that children drawn into their spell can smile at the thought of them decades later -- books that can spark the passion for a lifetime of reading.

Beginning a series of articles on readers young and grown-up, The Sun asked about the reading recollections of a handful of well-known people who have never lost their love for books.

Shortstop: The Baltimore Orioles' Mike Bordick says he was a "Green Eggs and Ham" fan in his Dr. Seuss youth, but the book that captured his imagination as an older child was the classic "Where The Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls. "That was the first time I realized that instead of watching TV, I could read," he says. "I really got into the book and I couldn't put it down.

"It's one of those books in which you can experience a lot of emotions -- excitement, happiness, sadness. For kids when they're just learning about their emotions, it's kind of neat for them to experience all of that through a book. They can put themselves into situations in the book and feel the way people feel."

Congressman: The Yukon is a long way from his native Baltimore, but Rep. Elijah E. Cummings says he related Jack London's tale of survival there, "The Call of the Wild," to his own life.

"I grew up in a very, very poor neighborhood where many young people were dropping out of school and finding themselves in juvenile detention homes or jail. My life became one of survival -- from a life standpoint, from the standpoint of not getting in trouble and of staying positive long enough to get out of the neighborhood I was in."

The book taught him about life, says the 7th District Democrat. "I learned that life is not going to be easy. And it introduced me to the concept of instinct, of gut feeling, of doing the right thing by going with what you feel."

Children's author: Priscilla Cummings of Annapolis, author of the Chadwick the Crab series, has saved only three books from her childhood bookshelf.

One is "Charlotte's Web" by E. B. White, a tale that to this day is her "favorite book of all time."

"It created a whole wonderful world for me," she says. "There were the animals with their wonderful personalities and the lessons in life that the story shared. It's all about love and friendship, and that speaks to people of all ages. I liked it as a kid, and I can still appreciate it as an adult."

The other books she saved: "Misty of Chincoteague" and "Black Beauty."

Television reporter: Jayne Miller, an investigative reporter for WBAL-TV, mentions mystery-solving heroine Nancy Drew.

"I liked the sense of risk in the stories," Miller says. "I had a tremendous sense of curiosity, and I liked the whole challenge of trying to figure things out, even as a kid. That's what has always driven me in my career."

Governor: Parris N. Glendening has been a science fiction fan since he was a boy, and says the magazine Amazing Stories got him hooked.

"In my mind would come pictures of different worlds and monsters," Glendening says. "To this day, when I have recreational time, I still read science fiction."

But when he visits an elementary school, Glendening notes, he likes to read to the children a storybook called "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash" by Trinka Hakes Noble. "The illustrations are so wonderful," he says.

Democratic challenger: Eileen M. Rehrmann, the Harford County executive who hopes to defeat Glendening in the September primary, was another Nancy Drew fan. She says she admired the way the ace detective could solve any mystery.

"Nancy Drew could always figure out what to do and how to do it," she says. "I would get totally involved in the book."

Now that she has young grandchildren, Rehrmann adds, she enjoys sharing Dr. Seuss books with them. "Books which stimulate children's imaginations and get them to read are so important."

GOP challenger: Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, making her second gubernatorial quest, says she did her childhood housecleaning chores with a dust cloth in one hand and a book in the other.

"Dog books were my favorite," Sauerbrey says. "I've always been a huge animal lover, and at one time in my life I wanted to be a veterinarian. The books I loved -- and I think I read them all -- were the ones about Lad and Bruce by Albert Payson Terhune. They told how people felt about animals, and the stories were so human."

U.S. Senator: Barbara A. Mikulski recalls a biography of Marie Curie, the Polish scientist who twice won the Nobel prize, from her childhood reading.

"I discovered that she could be anything she wanted to be, and it inspired me to do the same," Mikulski says. "Then I discovered Nancy Drew. Reading Nancy Drew allowed me to solve mysteries and solve problems, and it began my love of uncovering facts and searching for the truth."

Pub Date: 7/05/98

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