Required reading


Some students dread the phrase “required reading” and look upon the assignment of reading the book as a task that must be done and once the book is read, its content is forgotten. Volumes that earn a spot on the recommended reading lists have a theme or a message that resonates and transcends the test of time; a universal appeal.

One of the first writings that I was assigned to read was “Cheaper By The Dozen,” a novel authored by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and written in 1948. (Do not confuse this original book with the movie of 2003, which has little resemblance to the novel.)

“Cheaper By The Dozen” did feature a family with 12 children with the parents, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth being time efficiency experts. The co-authors were their children, who served as guinea pigs in ways to be more efficient in accomplishing everyday jobs. This story had real life people doing the same things as I did with recommendations on how to save time!

I was fascinated and inspired. Since reading this “required text” back in 1968, I have developed the habit of looking at my tasks and finding the most efficient way to do them! The premise is timeless! (No pun intended!)

Another book assigned when I was 13 was “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank. It was my first exposure to the horrors of the Holocaust. Reading about Anne, a girl my own age when she wrote her story and documented the experiences of herself and her family, had a powerful impact. Living in my sheltered environment, I could not fathom how people could survive the terror of such discrimination and the war itself.

“The Diary of a Young Girl” continues to be relevant, and we get to be reminded to recognize when someone is oppressed and stand for them.

William Shakespeare entered my life in eighth grade in the form of “Romeo and Juliet.” I saw the Franco Zeffirelli movie version and fell in love with the idea of teenage love! Purchasing a volume of Shakespeare’s plays soon followed, and I was delighted when the play was required reading in ninth grade, complete with a viewing of the movie. Remember, VCRs and DVDs were not available back in the old days, so it was a real treat to see the movie again.

Shakespeare was standard fare throughout high school and there is not a March 15 that passes without me saying the phrase, “Beware the Ides of March,” and thinking of Julius Caesar.

“Hamlet” and “MacBeth” were read and analyzed and their timeless themes are referenced constantly in other forms of literature.

At each stage of my education and in various classes I was assigned books to read that I might not have chosen on my own. Classics joined my bookshelves and moved with me from one living space to another, finding a home in my new house. At times I exchanged bags of books with friends to expand their reading interests and add to mine.

The library, be it the local Mifflin County branch, the school library or a college library always provided the resources for my “required reading(s).”

It also served as a place to research the themes and find other interpretations of the text when needed for term papers and essays.

Libraries continue to be the one “free” place where people can access materials in all forms using books, periodicals, audio materials and computers, with library personnel there to guide and assist.

A wise principal of mine (Kenneth Goodling) once advised me to choose an organization or a charity when I retired and volunteer my time to that one worthy cause. I am so grateful that the Mifflin County Library Board of Directors asked me to join their ranks and I can be a part of keeping our local library a vibrant resource for our community.


Margaret Zook has served on the Mifflin County Library Board of Directors since 2014 and is the current board secretary. She is reading James Lee Burke’s “Robicheaux.” She says Burke’s ability to describe a setting and a person brings the text to life.