Reading Rainbow, The Library, and Me

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Update: This is a republication of a previous post.

With all the talk of LeVar Burton lately, I was reminded of my childhood. I think many kids of my generation remember tuning into Reading Rainbow on PBS. I was a kid who loved to read! So, this was one of my favorite shows. I loved hearing the kids review the books. I remember buying a book with a red couch on the cover because of a review

It installed a love of science in me as well. I loved dinosaurs when I was little. There was a VHS tape about digging up dinosaurs that I wore out from watching it too much. Paleontology was one of my first scientific loves. 

In researching this piece, I discovered that a new documentary is in production about Reading Rainbow.

Back to the story, my parents couldn’t keep up with my reading. 

The Library is my Sanctuary 

Starting from a young age, my parents took me to the library once a week. Again, they didn’t censor what I read. I was reading books like 1984 as early as fourth grade. 

It was that year that my teacher took me aside at recess. I was surprised. This was a punishment usually reserved for the bad kids. I wondered what she had to tell me. 

I had scored the 98% percentile for vocabulary for fourth graders.  

My face was blank.

“Tell your parents. They’ll be proud.” 

The library was my refuge from the world. Escaping through books was one of three activities that got me through my troubled childhood. I felt like Librarians knew everything because they always knew where to look for the books that I wanted. Of course, that is just the mystery of the Dewey Decimal System , but I didn’t know that as a kid. 

Librarians were just magical. 

My Happy Place

One of my favorite things in all literature is L-Space from the Discworld novels. There is a magical library at Unseen University, the wizard school. The librarian was transformed into an orangutan in one of the early books of the series. He has access to L-space where all books that will ever be written exist. Only specially trained librarians can reach that dimension. 

It is more complicated than that and has been used in the books for many purposes. Including time travel and visiting alternate worlds. 

I love the idea that books can magically warp time and space. I always grab a book off the shelf hoping that one day that I will be transported to that dimension. 

My Parents Didn’t Understand

They really couldn’t understand what those books were doing to me. I remember reading “A Brief History of Time” when I was 12 or so. It immediately gave me a passion for cosmology. I always cry happy tears when I watch “The Theory of Everything.” That quote at the beginning of the film when Hawking explains what cosmology is always getting to me. It resonates with the truth in my heart. 

I was very inspired to think up my theory of everything after that book. 

This interest was taken to the next level when the Mars Rover was launched during my High School years. I very much wanted to be an Astrophysicist and that was my intent when I entered college at UC Irvine. 

I didn’t have support at home. The school didn’t know what to do with me being the worst student in the incoming physics class. I suppose, if I had understood, I would have transferred into mathematics. I could always get the abstract equations right if not the final answers. 

I wouldn’t return to science until my thirties. My work with THRIVE Lifeline has helped me come to terms with this time in my life. I now understand that it was the system that failed me. I hope that I can be that support that students need. The support that I needed.

My journey in science started with a book that I got from the library. 

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