The View From Pitlochry Farm
By Elaine Ahearn
Hampton Union, Friday, June 28, 2002
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Last weekend, once again, someone came to our house for the first time and proclaimed astonishment at the number of books we own. I am always very surprised at this because I cannot imagine living in a house that was not filled with books.
I will admit that the bookcases are crammed full, there are piles of books in every room, on chairs, tables and anywhere else a horizontal spot beckons, but such is our life. I would not change it.
I have taken Cicero's words "A Room without books is like a body without a soul" quite to heart. When I am depressed, I go to a book shop. When I am happy I go to a book shop. When I travel, the first things I look for in any city, town or village are book shops; it is a major criterion for how I judge the livability of any area.
Here on the Seacoast, we have an absolute gem in the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter. The atmosphere is serene and intimate. The staff is knowledgeable and kindly, and the selection of books impressive. They feature many titles that are not just the latest, popular culture selections. They also have some truly remarkable "book talks" featuring significant writers.
More importantly, they will try and get you anything that you request. I have given them some difficult challenges over the years and they have never failed me. Stroudwater Books in Portsmouth was great, as well but, alas, like all good things, it has disappeared. So, we do not have a surfeit of book shops here on the Seacoast, but we have something else, wonderful libraries.
I strongly believe that the greatest gift that you can give a child is the love of reading. When I see children being raised in a house with a big screen television and no books I grieve for their futures.
It is a well-documented fact that children "Learn what they live." If a child's most important role models are couch potatoes perched, with remote in hand, glued to the dreadful sports thing or (perish the thought) `The Mole," or "Survivor," their chances of scoring well academically are very poor in deed.
In order to help combat this horrid fate, the libraries of Hampton and Hampton Falls have a secret weapon: Story Hour, a reading program for babies — yes babies!
I am a particular fan of the program in Hampton.
Feeling as I do about reading, when our grandchildren Skye, and Justin, both now 5 years old, were born,
I looked into what was available for early reading and found that Hampton had a program for children as young as 15 months of age.
Skye lives in Hampton, so we were able to attend that program, and as soon as the children were old enough, we were signed up. What a fabulous experience this has been for all of us.
Joanne Mulready is the person who runs the classes for infants and children up to 3 years old. She is filled with such enthusiasm, true joie de vivre, and a well of patience that I have never seen close to exhaustion.
She has a different theme every week and the children learn songs, finger plays and poems, as well as reading the books that bring the theme together. It does not matter if the babies crawl away totally ignoring the story, or if they keep trying to climb on Joanne's lap and help her "read" as Justin was prone to do. Joanne just keeps smiling and reading and so obviously enjoys not only her job, but her small patrons as well.
She makes the children feel welcome, comfortable and instills in them her love of books. At Story Hour, my daughter-in-law Michelle and I met many mothers and fathers with children the same age. Michelle moved here from Ireland when she married our son, one of the best things that ever happened to this family. Attending Story Hour at the library gave Michelle so many opportunities to make new friends in a totally unfamiliar place.
Cindy Stosse is the librarian for the children's department. She took over the position about two years ago and when she arrived she brought puppets, loads of new books, and an additional dose of ebullient zest for the children's reading program. Joanne and Cindy have worked diligently to make the children's room at the Hampton Library one of the very best places to spend a morning or afternoon with a child, or without one, (some-times I go alone).
Hampton Falls also has a great Story Hour program, it starts a little later, children must be 2 years old to attend. Everyone I know who has attended the program raves about it. Judy Haskell, our town librarian, is, without fail, thoughtfulness itself, and her commitment to literacy for children is obvious. Justin loves her and constantly asks if he can go to the library just to ask Judy a particular question.
They have great summer reading programs and their children's department is getting bigger every time I go. Literature is my life. I am still in graduate school, a British literature major, early 20th-century literature, novels of the First World War are my particular passion. Libraries have been not only a source of information and much-needed help for a tired scholar, but a consistent and reliable refuge.
I wanted my grandchildren to share this ardor for reading and to be instilled with the need for knowledge. The libraries of the Seacoast have helped me make this a reality. Both Justin, Skye and now Josh, think that going to the library is just about the most fun you can have.
Please visit our local libraries. Some very good people have worked hard to make them some of our most valuable assets.
In closing, I would like to share Germaine Greer's comments about libraries:
"Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace, and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed."