One of Alex’s favorite places to go besides Walmart and Panera Bread is our local public library. Considering how much he loves books and reading, his enjoyment of trips to the library is not surprising. When he was younger, I took him to choose books probably two or three times a month. However, for several years, I couldn’t take him to the library because his unpredictable adolescent behavior worried me that he might become noisy and disruptive. Meltdowns from children with autism are never pretty, but I knew that if he threw a fit in the middle of a quiet library, all eyes would be upon us. I wasn’t brave enough to risk that kind of negative attention for either of us. Recently, his vastly improved behavior has earned him regular trips to the library again, and he and I have established a routine where we go every other Saturday morning. While his tastes in reading material have changed over the years, his enthusiasm about going to pick out books from a large collection remains strong.
As a little boy, Alex spent most of his time in the children’s section of the library, other than the time he spent patiently waiting for me to select books from the adult section. The only problem about the children’s section of our library is that it is located on the second floor. Since Alex was afraid to walk down the stairs at that time, I’d have to carry him down in my arms. As he got bigger and heavier, this became a challenge because we were also carrying a stack of books he’d chosen. Of course, we could have taken the elevator, but my fear of elevators made me more willing to carry Alex and his books down the stairs without complaint. While most children like picture books and story books, Alex preferred books about letters and numbers. I think we read just about every alphabet book in the library’s collection. In addition, he loved Jane Belk Moncure’s My First Steps to Reading Series; each book focuses specifically on one letter of the alphabet, such as My “a” Book, and lists several words that begin with that letter. These books complemented his speech therapy nicely because he would often choose the letter that his speech therapist had assigned us to work on for those weeks. He read all the books in the series, and even read some of his favorites more than once. Another series he really liked was the MathStart Series that includes math problems in the stories, which appealed to his love of numbers and math. He also discovered a series of foreign language picture dictionaries written for children, the Just Look and Learn Picture Dictionaries, and he enjoyed learning some Spanish, German, French, and Italian words from these books. Besides his interest in books about letters, numbers, and foreign languages, Alex also liked looking through children’s cookbooks, especially when he was a big fan of the Food Network.
One of Alex’s strengths lies in his ability to research his interests. He mastered the computerized card catalog early, and I remember vividly holding him up so that he could reach the keyboard to type in his search queries. Now he no longer needs me to boost him to reach the computer at the library, but he often prefers to investigate possible book choices from home, using the online card catalog instead. While I sometimes make suggestions about books I think he would like, he also comes up with ideas of his own about what he’d like to read. His favorite library books seem to be medical in nature; he has read about child development and was especially engaged in a couple of books he read about the brain and nervous system. In addition, he has checked out books about recreational activities, such as NASCAR, gambling, and the board game Monopoly. He was also pleased to find a book about the different numbers famous athletes have worn on their sport jerseys; this combined his interest in sports as well as his love of numbers. Because of his interest in finance and the stock market, he has additionally read books about Wall Street and banking. Currently, he has checked out another library book about the brain and nervous system that he has been studying carefully, along with the Encyclopedia of Antique American Clocks, which is fitting since he likes clocks and dates, both of which are prominent in this book. As I watch Alex enjoy selecting books from the library and reading them at home, I’m pleased that he, like Ed and me, finds so much pleasure in reading.
“In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness.” Isaiah 29:18