I started my first job during my last month of third grade. With my mom’s help, I obtained special permission to leave school ten minutes early. In those minutes, I ran, scootered, or biked the two blocks to a little yellow stand, the family Sno Shack, where I set up shop for the after-school rush.
I grew up in a tiny community 35 minutes from the closest WalMart and 2 hours from the closest shopping mall. Most of the locals work in coal mines or power plants, and I knew everyone at my high school. It’s a great, tight-knit town, and everything moves pretty steady.
We opened the Sno Shack each year when the weather started to warm up in the spring. Elementary school kids were our main customers, and many of them brought money so they could stop by and order a shaved ice treat on their way home from school. A cool cup of shaved ice topped with sugary flavor didn’t cost much if you bought it from our little shack on the stoplight-less Main Street. Until my junior year of high school, customers could buy a small, eight-ounce shaved ice for fifty cents. My mom, siblings (a.k.a. co-workers) and I decided to bump the price up twenty-five cents a couple years before I left home because the Styrofoam cups we bought from our supplier were getting too expensive. Our kid customers didn’t seem to mind. Three quarters — or sometimes 75 pennies — for a refreshing treat didn’t seem half bad.
In the first few weeks of opening, we stayed pretty busy. But once school let out for summer, everything slowed down. During those months, my siblings and I worked the Sno Shack in two-hour shifts, so on a summer day I worked from 11-1, 1-3, 3-5, or 5-7. Because it wasn’t very busy, I often found other activities to enjoy while I watched for customers. On a given day, I’d spend 20 minutes throwing a baseball against the brick wall, 10 minutes serving customers, and 90 minutes reading.
The Sno Shack was set up kitty-corner from the public library, and I frequently ducked away from the shop to run to the library and back for a new book. The Sno Shack was where I did most of my hobby reading from third grade through high school. As you might guess, considering I spent only ten minutes serving customers on a lazy summer day, we didn’t make loads of money—just enough to buy school clothes and sports equipment and tuck some away for the future. But I did go on amazing adventures because of the Sno Shack. I defended Redwall Abbey against the invasions of Cluny the Scourge, I rode threstrals to the Ministry of Magic, I held the far left flank of Little Round Top with Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and I hunted for Commander Ramius and the Red October.
I had many great opportunities as a child, but I think one of the most formative was the chance to read often. At the Sno Shack, I couldn’t flip on the TV or play Nintendo when I was bored. We didn’t have tablets either. Not to be misunderstood, I enjoy a fun Netflix series or a few rounds of Call of Duty with friends. But I’m grateful for the chance I had to read every day. Because I read when I had time at the Sno Shack, I learned to read more often when I was bored at home, when I finished my work early in class, or—confession moment—when I wanted to avoid washing dishes after dinner. We’ve all done that, right?
You might be thinking my experience is all well and good, but you don’t happen to live in a small town where your children can take turns working a Sno Shack together. Truth is, my kids probably won’t ever be so lucky either. But what I’m determined to do, and what I hope this prompts you to do as well, is to create opportunities for reading.
Bookroo is all about creating those opportunities. In fact, we’re currently holding a 30 for 30 reading challenge to encourage parents and children to spend 30 minutes reading each day. The best part? For every 30 minutes of reading for every child that you log on Bookroo.com/read, you’ll get an entry into our giveaway. We’re just days away from giving away our biggest prize, an adorable hand-made reading nook set from Blue House Joys!
It might not be a little shack on main street, but it’s definitely cuter.
Oh, and if you don’t happen to work or live kitty-corner from the library, we’re happy to send some books your way. Sign up for your own books or send books to someone you love at Bookroo.com.