In college I won crap all the time. And I say “crap” on purpose because it was never anything big, just random door prize drawings at events hosted on campus like speakers or performers, etc. The most memorable door prize was a giant tub of cheese puffs, so again, nothing of major note even though I was consistent as all get out with having my name drawn. This even continued after graduation when our family later attended alumni events and somehow I would still walk away with some little Doane swag like a foam mini-football (that became a favorite plaything of HD’s until some younger sibling literally took a bite out of it and we had to chuck it, pun intended).
Beyond door prizes, I’ve never really entered myself in competitions. Even though my family, of origin and the one that I’ve created with Ben, is competitive, I’ve never been on a team or in an event that resulted in a nail-bitter championship moment. My favorite activities have always been more solo-based, and even when I did team sports, it was cross country which was a team, yes, but also entirely individual in terms of performance. It makes sense then that the one title I earned more than once growing up was Top Reader at our library’s Summer Reading Program.
With my mom the elementary teacher off for summers, my brother and I did a remarkable number of week-long lessons, including swim, tennis, golf, and art-based classes that she worked out for us via the giant matrix of offerings printed in the Press & Dakotan each spring. In the midst of all that, we never missed the SRP and our chance to log books read and earn little prizes in return. A lot of what we got was coupons for local fast food places: wooden chips that were good for a free taco from Taco John’s, or a slip of paper that meant a free ice cream cone at McDonald’s or Dairy Queen. I’m sure there were other items available, but to a kid who grew up in the country and didn’t have as direct of access to eating out as town kids, these were big treats.
Also big was the list of books I put under my belt each summer. I spent so much time at the Yankton Public Library that I could probably still draw you a map of its interior, the children’s department in particular. As I aged, I had my favorite series that I loved to read which included, but was not limited to: The Sleepover Friends, Sweet Valley Twins/High, Nancy Drew, and some Babysitter’s Club, too. I wasn’t quite to that reading level, though, when I landed myself in the paper (along with a couple of classmates and other local kids), pictured together after a party to celebrate Top Readers. You’ve gotta love a small town that not only holds such honors but documents them in the local paper!
These days I don’t do a good job of recording my reading through our local library (although my kids do participate in the SRP most years), but I have been keeping track of my books read for a handful of years now on the blog. More recently I also (finally) started using GoodReads, a website that helps you record titles and reviews of your books read which is super helpful for not reading titles again (a mistake I’ve made more than once). I typically set a 52 book annual goal which lands me at a book a week, but in 2021 I went wild and aimed for 100 books in 12 months time and hit it, even though it was a little dicey there at the end of the year to get all books done by deadline.
I don’t plan to repeat that little stunt again any time soon, but I wear my Word Nerd/Top Reader status with pride and am always happy to talk books with people. Just don’t ask me for details because I am way more likely to remember how a book made me feel than I am plot points (and even character names, sometimes). Such is the life of a prolific reader!
*Post 33/52 of year-long Writing Challenge.