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David Bly: Book-lovers’ heaven at the TC book sale

I was busted. I had tried to hide the book behind my math workbook, but it didn’t work. Mr. Meldrum, with that sixth sense teachers have, knew it wasn’t Grade 9 math that was holding my attention.

I was busted. I had tried to hide the book behind my math workbook, but it didn’t work. Mr. Meldrum, with that sixth sense teachers have, knew it wasn’t Grade 9 math that was holding my attention. He strode to my desk and yanked the book from my hands.

“What’s this?” he demanded. I braced myself for the obligatory cuff on the head (those were the days when teachers could do that, within reason) but it didn’t come.

“What’s this?” he said in a different tone, puzzled, surprised. He wasn’t holding a comic book or a Playboy magazine, normal contraband reading for some of my peers — it was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

The wheels must have been turning in his head. Do you smack a kid for reading the classics, even if it is in math class? The next year, one of his colleagues would be trying to cajole, threaten and blackmail students into reading Ivanhoe, and here was one doing it on the sly.

But math was math, after all.

“Oh, hell,” he said, and whapped me on the head with the book, but it was a gentle whap, not with his usual enthusiasm. And when he handed the book back to me, his finger was between the pages so I wouldn’t lose my place.

Books captured me at an early age. By the time I was in Grade 2, my favourite after-school destination was the library, where I would grab my quota of four books and head for home. With the right planning, I could have them read and be back just before the 6 p.m. closing time for four more books, which would get me through the evening.

I was an indiscriminate reader. I whipped through all the formula books: the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift. Mind candy, yes, but words on pages. Then I moved on.

Sometimes I would grab books at random. The formidable librarian never stopped me from browsing the adult section. (That was when adult mean grown-up, not dirty.) Sometimes, her eyebrows would elevate in surprise as she looked at my choice, but she would stamp my card and hand me the book without comment.

It was a rich life, undiminished by television and other electronic distractions that impoverish minds today.

Mind you, my love for reading sometimes became an obsession. There was a time when my work involved regular trips down long prairie highways with no distracting curves and corners. I could prop a book on the steering wheel and read in brief snatches. (I changed my ways.)

Our kids were raised with television and computers, but we also made sure they were raised with books. Thursday was library day, and off we would go for piles of books.

Teachers have told me children who love to read consistently do better in all subjects than children who do not have the habit of reading.

That love for books in our family has not abated, and it shows. We have several shelves full of books, and many boxes. I cannot bear to toss out a book. I hear the words of one high school teacher: “Any book — even a mediocre book — is a treasure.”

Books are full of ideas and knowledge. Reading sharpens the mind and stimulates the imagination. Words on paper can block out harmful rays, such as those from electronic screens that turn brains into mush.

But the books are not treasures if they sit in boxes unread. That’s why we’re gathering them up for the Times Colonist book drive — we can clear them out of the house without grief, knowing they will go to good homes, and knowing they go to support literacy programs.

Don’t let your books languish. Box them up and drop them off at the Victoria Curling Club on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Westshore residents can leave books at the Westhills end of Langford Parkway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 20. Look for AMJ Campbell moving trucks.

Be kind — don’t include books that are falling apart or are missing pages.

Then feed your habit by coming back to the curling club for the book sale on May 4 and 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information:

The book sale information page is here.

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