I am so excited about Teen Skepchick! As you all know, over the past couple of years I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I was raised, first as a Catholic and later as a born-again Christian. I am convinced that if I did not have an early interests in reading, math, and science built on a solid education from public (read non-religious) school, that I may never have been able to get out of the fundamentalist trap I found myself in in my late teens and early twenties.
I had my head buried in books for as long as I can remember. From the time I read Ann Likes Red on my own, I was hooked.
Would you like a green dress, Ann?
No, I want a red dress.
Would you like a blue hat, Ann?
No, I want a red hat.
It wasn’t profound, but this little book opened up the world to me. When our new library opened, replacing the book mobile that had previously kept me supplied with reading material, I had to learn how to write my name to get my own library card. I practiced and practiced on that special paper with pale blue lines showing how tall the capital and small letters should be. After a week, I was able to scribble
D o n n a D r u c h u n a s
on the library card request form. It was legible, but it wasn’t neat. It was, however, good enough to get my library own card, my prize possession. I started with picture books, but soon was checking out chapter books with smaller print and longer stories.
When I was a bit older, I visited the school library frequently, picking up books about Annie Sullivan, Anne Frank, and Florence Nightingale. I didn’t find any books about female physicists, biologists, astronauts, or politicians. But it never occurred to me that because I was a girl, my role models should be women. (I’m not sure that it actually ever occurred to me that I was a girl, I always thought of myself as a person.) I read about Abraham Lincoln learning to read by candle-light, and envisioned myself in his shoes. I read about Lief Erickson leading an expedition to Canada, and I pictured myself by his side on a Viking ship crossing the North Atlantic.
In the sixth grade, I read Flowers for Algernon when every other sixth-grade girl was engrossed in Judy Blume’s book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I was not interested in talking about getting my period, kissing boys, or chanting, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” But by this time, most of the boys and the girls in my class were more interested in each other than in learning anything in school, and I became the outcast of the sixth grade class of Boyle Road Elementary School. I may have been a misfit, but I didn’t care. I had never known that you were supposed to have a lot of friends and play with popular toys. I hadn’t thought that you were supposed to wear the same clothes as the popular girls or ask Santa for the same things that everyone else wanted. And it certainly t never occurred to me that I should read the same books as the other kids.
I found a lot of interesting things to read in libraries, but today young readers have even more of an opportunity to find reading material to stimulate their minds on the internet. Even kids who are home schooled and kids who live in small towns that might not have great libraries can go online and read. I’m so happy that Teen Skepchick is now available to contribute to this huge virtual library. Just think what I might have done if I knew other girls who were interested in math and science, or if I had more female role models to look up to. My life turned out to be OK in the end, but I took some difficult detours that could have been avoided. I wish something like Teen Skepchick had been available to me when I was in in my teens, and I can’t wait to read what our young contributors have to say!