Lois Lowry's Blog


The jury is still out

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 in Uncategorized

No, I am not talking about the Casey Anthony murder trial.  It's the reading-in-bed-with-a-flashlight question. If you look at comments to the previous post, you'll see the verdict is not final and maybe never will be.  I think, though, that it may be a generational thing. I was a child in the 1940's. Some months ago I wrote a post about my scissor fixation...the fact that today there are scissors EVERYWHERE in my house, probably because when I was a kid there were never any scissors available when I wanted to cut out paper dolls. Mother wouldn't let me use her sewing scissors. Dad wouldn't let me use his medical scissors. My sister and I were always looking for scissors. Now I can't walk through Staples without buying yet one more pair.  My visiting brother recently said, while looking in my kitchen for a screwdriver:  "Why are there six pairs of scissors in the junk drawer?"

Same, I think, with flashlights. If there was a flashlight in my childhood home (and there may have been, but I don't remember one) it would have been regarded as a serious and expensive implement (somewhat like scissors), not something for a child to fool around with. But today there are flashlights everywhere in both my houses. Flashlights are cheap.



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Juliana Rowland Monday, 29 November 1999

You make a good point about the relative price of flashlights and scissors then and now. I also remember being scolded for using my mother’s sewing scissors or haircutting scissors for anything other than sewing or cutting hair (which, of course, would have gotten me in trouble too), and I’m, well, a few years younger than you. It’s an interesting statement on how the availability of cheap goods (can anybody say China?) has changed our consumption habits and lifestyles. I don’t recall looking for flashlights as a kid – I mostly got in trouble for sneaking back into the living room in the middle of the night to read – but I’m sure that my parents didn’t have a half dozen of them the way we do now.

Ellen Booraem Monday, 29 November 1999

I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and my father was a gadget-lover. We had all shapes and sizes of flashlights. I even got one in my Christmas stocking. (a bit of a disappointment at the time.)

Naomi Monday, 29 November 1999

Over the last ten years I have bought dozens of pairs of both scissors and flashlights.
And yet I had to buy a new set of flashlights for our summer camp vacation last week, because I could only find two and thought we needed one per person. And the only pairs of scissors I can find are one pair of very small children's safety scissors.
At least there is plenty of scotch tape in my house (when I was a kid, the scotch tape was treated like some rare and valuable substance and I had to ask permission before grudgingly being handed a three-inch strip.)

Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

Yes! Scotch tape! Was it even invented when I was a child? I just checked. Yes. Scotch tape was invented in the 1930's. I think I remember it being very precious though, not to be played with.

Jessie Lacy Monday, 29 November 1999

As the child of missionaries growing up in India in the 50s and 60s, a flashlight was an essential piece of equipment. We went to school in the mountains -- no street lamps -- but a definite need to light one's way or risk walking over a cliff. And during the months we were boarding at school a flashlight got you to the bathroom after lights-out or allowed a little sneaky reading. And electricity was not always reliable.I guess it all depends on one's circumstances!

James Preller Monday, 29 November 1999

I'm reading a terrific book, THE RIGHTS OF THE READER by Daniel Pennac (highly, highly recommended), and he touches upon the flashlight thing.
I'll just quote from Chapter 2:
"Young people's reluctance to read is all the harder to understand if you're of a generation, a time, a background, a family, where everyone always tried to keep you from reading.
'Stop reading, for goodness' sake -- you'll strain your eyes!'
'Why don't you go outside and play? It's a beautiful day.'
'Lights out! It's late!'
Yes, the weather was always too good for reading. And the night too dark.
It's interesting that even back then, reading was rarely a matter of choice. So it became a subversive act. You didn't just discover a novel; you were disobeying your parents too. A double victory. The happy memory of reading time snatched under the bedclothes by flashlight."
As for me, JP, I never read by flashlight under the covers. It wasn't something I had to sneak. And I agree: Like, really, who had a flashlight?

Ellen Booraem Monday, 29 November 1999

This is a very interesting comment. In the late 50s/early 60s, I was constantly being shooed out the door to play in the sun--I'd shove a book in the waistband of my shorts and hole up somewhere out of sight. And yet my parents were readers and kept me amply supplied with books. Perhaps we should try the "forbidden fruit" approach today. ("Put down that book right now and go finish your video game.")

Vanessa Monday, 29 November 1999

I had a special booklight that clipped to my books. And also I wanted to emulate Harriet the Spy, my childhood hero.

Lynette Monday, 29 November 1999

I do hate to tell you this, but I really did read by the light of a flashlight at night. We always seemed to have a curfew-even in summer and I had this little red number. It took AA batteries. I have no idea where I got it.If I were to get off that farm, the only way was by reading by flashlight into the wee hours of night.

Sarah Monday, 29 November 1999

I always Wanted to read by flashlight but also didn't have one. I was born in the 60's and so was reading in the 70's. Fortunately both my parents are voracious readers so they never ever discouraged me from reading. When my son was born I couldn't wait to introduce him to all my favorites. He is 16 now and doesn't read unless forced. He has a couple favorite authors but it is VERY rare to see him sitting with a novel in his hands...this is my only disappointment as a parent, he is otherwise a wonderful boy. To this day, the only people I know who have read more books than me are my parents.

Debra Smith Monday, 29 November 1999

I encourage my students to write about people, places, and objects that they are passionate about. I enjoy your blog because you are truly a WRITER. As you wrote about scissors, this is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of what I try over and over and over and over to explain to my writing students. As a published author, of course, you naturally know this. I am HOPING TO share this blog entree with my elementary students this Fall with your permission (hopefully you will give it).

Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

Oh, sure. Anything on my blog is available. I'm glad you feel it will be helpful to your students.

Teri Monday, 29 November 1999

I never read in my bed, under the covers, with a flashlight. I freely admit it. I read on the floor, between my sister's and my twin beds, covers draped over the void so I didn't have to balance them on my head, and, yes, with a flashlight. So there. Actually, it was a compromise with my father. I read with a flashlight or a lantern. He opted for the relatively nonflammable flashlight.

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