A Real Gem… & It’s Still Going

For those of you that do not know, I’m a book dork. Collecting books & writing has been my passion for a very long time. Right across the room from where I am typing this, a bookshelf stand, loaded & bloated to capacity with volumes of varying styles. A complete set of the Complete Works of Mark Twain from the 1930s; an impressive (in my opinion) first edition collection of Hunter S. Thompson & Norman Mailer; of course, my first-ever love, Calvin and Hobbes books, published by Andrews and McMeel, & many other glorious books.

I’m not sure when this wonderful, terrible addiction to words started.

What I do know was I was encouraged. For as long back as I can remember, reading was encouraged. Everyone from my mother, her father, Mern – even my best friend in 4th grade, his grandmother – pushed & bribed me to read.

That’s right – BRIBED!

Ms. S__, my best friend’s grandmother, would pay me $2 for every book I would read. And here is the kicker: I would save that money up to buy Calvin and Hobbes books from the Scholastic Book Club catalog.

(I know, I know – I was hopeless! A junky to the printed word.)

There was also another program fueling my young & silly mind to read… & read… & read. And that program was called BOOK IT!

Do any of you guys remember BOOK IT!?

Let me refresh your memories:

“BOOK IT! is a reading incentive program created by Pizza Hut in 1984. We empower teachers and parents to motivate their students to read by providing Reading Award Certificates®, good for a free, one-topping Personal Pan Pizza® from Pizza Hut.”

That is what I found online as a broad-stroke overview of the program. Now from what I remember, I’m not sure on what day, or why, I was given a button/badge. It was explained to me that for each book I read I’d be given a star sticker. These stickers would go on the badge – mine surrounding, almost blotting-out the whole damn image on the thing – & after so many stickers, so many titles consumed, I got my own Personal Pan Pizza.

(For me, it was cheese only.)

Now, there is more to it than that.

My mother would take us to Pizza Hut, in Ravenna, on ST. RT. 59, during the summers. That was library day. And one of the great things about my mother – SHE ACTUALLY TALKED TO ME ABOUT WHAT I WAS READING! And, later-on in life, she would talk to me about what kind of music I listened to. I don’t consider those interactions as challenges. Not anymore. What it did was sharpen a weapon of debate, & to intellectually take into consideration things I was mentally ingesting.

Another great thing about those visits to Pizza Hut was the jukebox. My mother would give us some quarters, we three kids would pick out some tunes & have a blast. (I would always choose a Guns N’ Roses tune, usually “You Could Be Mine” because it was from the Terminator 2 soundtrack.)

BOOK IT! is still around. That’s right! Visit: https://www.bookitprogram.com/

Our traditional BOOK IT! Program is still going strong after 30+ years. We welcome teachers to enroll their PreK through sixth-grade classrooms for our FREE reading incentive program.”

Once again, that is something I found online. And hell, I would even go to schools to encourage the kids to not only read – BUT GET FREE PIZZA!

When I was growing up, ironically, one of my favorite cartoons, the main characters, ate pizza! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

And, WOW! I have really embarrassed myself in this column at how big of a nerd I was when I was young. But, what the hell, this was a fun piece to write. It was even more fun the recognition that not all memories I have prior to November 23, 2021, were Horror Stories.

Childhood & Life, as all of you know, has the perfect ability & capability to scar. No one can argue that. And scars can cover you all over your body; however, it is up to you how often you look at them. And it’s up to you to look past them.


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