Even though the Betsy-Tacy books are some of my very favorites, Betsy Ray wasn’t the first literary “Betsy” I came across in my readings. When I was in second grade and began reading chapter books, the first ones I remember reading was a series a books by author Carolyn Haywood known simply as the “Betsy” and “Eddie” books.
The one that stands out in my mind as “the first chapter book I ever read” was Snowbound with Betsy, written in 1962, and is just one of the many books Haywood wrote about a little girl named Betsy and the things she does with her friends. The first book in the series is called B is For Betsy, which was written way back in 1939, which I actually found a few years ago at a library book sale (with a slightly disappointing revised cover, but whatever).
I absolutely loved the Betsy books when I was in grade school, devouring them up whenever I could from my school and public library. My favorites were always ones that took place in the winter: Snowbound with Betsy, Betsy’s Winterhouse, Merry Christmas from Betsy, and Betsy’s Little Star. And then when I wasn’t missing winter (I seriously loved winter when I was a kid), I would enjoy reading Betsy’s Busy Summer, and I vividly remember checking it out from the public library every single time it was available.
Carolyn Haywood also wrote books about Betsy’s friend Eddie, and even though I read a handful of those as well, I never liked them as much and would usually only read them when the Betsy books were checked out. I guess I considered them to be “boy” books, even though I know we shouldn’t label books as genders, but I was seven years old, so…that’s my excuse.
I have no idea what other kinds of kids’ books were out in the mid-80s (I wouldn’t discover The Baby-sitter’s Club for another two years), but I’m so thankful that these books were available at the library. I truly believe it was these books that began my lifetime love of reading. If I hadn’t found books that I loved right at the beginning of my reading adventures, then who knows if I would have grown to love reading as much as I did. And if I hadn’t decided that I loved reading, I may not have ever discovered books like The Baby-sitter’s Club or the Little House books or VC Andrews or – gasp – Harry Potter.
So even though Carolyn Haywood left us over twenty years ago, her legacy stays with me because she shaped the reader I am today. So a huge thank you thank you thank you thank you to her, and I hope my daughter finds books like the “Betsy” books that help her develop into a reader as well.
And now I ask you: What was the book that turned you into a reader?