The Little House books taught me to read.
I couldn’t read until I was taught in first grade. No: not an early reader, me, and though I caught on to school lessons, I didn’t read for pleasure until the summer between second and third grade. The summer after second grade, I’m sure, because it was my second grade teacher whom I remember reading Little House in the Big Woods aloud to our class. I had the books at home–I had regarded them with childish suspicion. But having them read to me, I liked them. A lot.
We moved that summer. New school. New kids. New environment. I was not happy in third grade. The only nice parts of the day were dinner time and bedtime, when I would read under the covers with a purple flashlight. These books, specifically. I cut my reading teeth on Little House. I read the whole series through. Then I read it again. Then I read it a third time. By then third grade was over and I looked elsewhere for a little variety in my fiction. But I come back to these books again and again. They grow with you. They’re adventurous; they’re charming; they’re stories of a culturally and creatively suppressive society; they’re nostalgic favorites; they are a gentle but unflinching narrative of hunger. You can see in these books whatever you need to see at the time you read them. And that, I’m convinced, is why they’re classics.
And my old set, given to me for my sixth birthday, is kaput. Farmer Boy fell apart three years ago, but now On the Prairie has come apart and the others aren’t looking good. Time for a new set, I suppose.