This is another post for the September Blog Challenge. The question of the day is, what is my favorite book?
That is actually a pretty hard question for me! I have loved reading since I was just a baby, and I've always devoured books as if they were oxygen. So it is really hard for me to choose just one of my favorites. Would I pick one of my childhood favorites like The Happy Hollisters or Pippi Longstockings? One of the classics I started reading when I was only eleven, like Catcher In The Rye or To Kill A Mockingbird? Or one of the most recent books I've gotten on discount from Target, like Room or Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend?
If you were to ask me about one of the books that helped to guide my life, I would tell you a title you probably won't recognize. It is called Children With Emerald Eyes, by Mira Rothenberg.
I found this book when I was eleven years old. My dad's aunt had just moved into a nursing home, and my dad, who was appointed her legal guardian, had to clean out and sell her house. My great-aunt had not taken very good care of herself or her house in her later years, and it was in a state of disarray. Every weekend my parents and my brother and I would go to her house. While my parents worked on cleaning it up and packing things away, my brother and I were left to our own devices. We were told we could pretty much keep anything knick-knacks we found in the house. For me, the most interesting part of the house was my aunt's bookshelf. At eleven, I already loved the smell of antique books, and I was reading at a high school level. Children With Emerald Eyes was one of the books I rescued from that shelf. I have read it many times since.
The book is written by a psychologist who worked with "severely disturbed" children... which, in 1977 when this book was published, meant children with autism, schizophrenia, and various mental illnesses. Each chapter was a story about a different child, or group of children, that she worked with.
I was enchanted by the book. I guess it was a little odd because I was reading it while I was a child, and most of the kids in the book were around my age, yet I was understanding it from the point of view of the psychologist who was narrating it. I think this was the first book that put into my head the idea of working with children with special needs. It was the first book that showed me that a career like that existed, and how rewarding it could be.
I was in fifth grade. I got teased a lot and I didn't have any friends. The only kids I played with were some younger kids from the special education class. Ironically, I had not yet learned that I had ADHD and autism myself, yet I recognized that I had more in common with my little friends than I did with my fifth grade peers. I considered myself sort of their guardian on the playground, because I would keep them out of trouble and keep other kids from picking on them. My friendship with them, and the book Children With Emerald Eyes, are probably what first started me on the path to working with children with special needs.
If this book sounds interesting to you, check it out on Amazon! I thought this book was ancient history, but when I was looking up information about it for this post, I saw that it was actually reprinted in 2003. You have to be aware that some of the terminology, and some of the techniques used to work with the kids, are really outdated and are almost offensive now. But for the 1970's Mira Rothenberg was considered very progressive and she changed a lot about the ways that children with mental illness and autism were served.
What is your favorite book?