Meet Becky White-Schooner, an avid reader and creative co-proprietor of Schooner Farms in Weston, Ohio:
What book is your homerun book? Why does this book mean so much to you?
How does one choose? I would say there are two books that really stand out to me growing up. The first is Reader’s Digest Fairy Tales. An old thick book with a ragged red cover was my passage to many magical places, exciting cultures and encouraged my imagination to blossom. I was nine or ten when I recall reading the fairy tale collection, but it was when I was eleven that the book took on a whole new meaning for me. My family had moved to Vermont from Ohio, and we didn’t know anyone, and reading helped create imaginary friends and places for my younger siblings and me. I am eight years older than my brother, Raymond, and ten years older than my sister, Jenny, so I was sort of a mom to them. My Grandfather White was an amazing storyteller and I would relish his tales of “Grandfather Bullfrog” and other woodland creatures. I remember wanting my siblings to have that experience, so I tried to fill that gap with the fairy tales in that old Reader’s Digest book.
My second most cherished reading experience was the very first time I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The summer I was twelve, I found an old book at a tag sale. The title was Rebecca. Being a Rebecca myself, I had to buy it, of course. I remember the first line of Rebecca like I am reading it right now –
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.’
I read that passage over and over, and for me at twelve, I thought those were the most amazing words ever written. The writing was dreamy and just gorgeous. I think I was old enough to appreciate how words could flow and make such an impression. It was my first foray into Gothic Novels but oh, did it open doors to even more amazing books. Jane Eyre was next, then Sense and Sensibility, poems by Emily Dickinson and more Austen. I loved those books. I connected with the characters and created a narrative in my mind of who I wanted to become.
Tell us how you came to be a lifelong reader. Was there a person who influenced you as a child? Did you have a teacher or a librarian who encouraged you?
My love of reading was really influenced by my Grandpa White. As I mentioned above, he was an amazing storyteller. He had a velvet radio voice and could create such wonderful stories. I truly loved that about him. Grandpa was a reader. I was always in awe of all the leather bound books he had on his shelves. I learned at an early age that reading was an escape, and, to be honest, it probably saved me. My 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Maguire, was one of the most influential women in my life. She believed in me and encouraged me to reach my potential. I will never forget her. She shared so many fabulous books with me and told me to allow my imagination to soar. She taught me that I could find solace in reading.
Where is your favorite place to read, and when do you make the time for reading? As a child, when and where did you read?
As a girl, I loved to lay on the porch swing and read all day long. I was a night reader too. My sister loved Clifford and after reading that to her, I would dive into my own literary world.
As an adult, my favorite time and place to enjoy reading is on the front porch glider, first thing in the morning with the gorgeous birdsong and fresh breeze. Otherwise, you’ll find me in a big old leather chair with a cuppa. I like to read in the morning before any one can intrude on my time.
If you could pick five books that should be on every child’s bookshelf, what would those books be? And, why?
My choices would be for older children.
The Reader’s Digest of Fairytales – so many great stories and a wonderful way to learn about the world.
Any thing by Ronald Dahl – I loved all of his books. I love his characters and the bits of wonder and magic.
The Harry Potter Series – I read these to my stepson and we formed a beautiful bond over these books. Talk about creating an imaginary world. Wow!
The Little House Books – by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This series really taught me about hardships, daily survival, family, nature, history, morals and growing up. One can learn to appreciate how much different life was just a few generations ago. I was gifted this series by my grandparents when I was in the third grade. I recall learning so many good lessons and I appreciated my life and the time period I lived in.
Greek Myths –My goodness, I loved reading Greek myths. Again, inspiring the imagination.
Please tell us about it your favorite read-aloud book.
Clifford the Big Red Dog will always be my favorite read aloud book. I cherish those memories of being curled up in bed reading to my little sister. We didn’t have a lot of children’s books, my parents weren’t readers so Clifford was on repeat every night. I taught my sister to read with Clifford. The story was the same every night but we would make up new adventures for Clifford and Emily Elizabeth on our own. It was those moments that I saw that little spark of imagination in my sister and myself.
Do you have a favorite library?
The Wood County District Public Library is my local favorite. The staff is amazing, the space inviting and so much good energy. I guess, my favorite library is my own – it is full of topics I love and can learn from whenever I want. Books that have inspired me, frustrated me, taught me and by the tomes on the shelves I see the evolution of my own personal story.
What else would you like to add on the topic of books and reading?
Reading is a gift we should never take for granted. Carve out time to feed your imagination and soul.