Yes, this is an encyclopedia set. The World Book Encyclopedia, copyright year 1972, to be exact.
It traveled all the way from Bronx to Miami.
When I was five, and reading a favorite series, I asked my mom about a word, and she pointed to our bookcase—it is the same one that now sits in our sunroom in our Miami home—and she pointed out our dictionaries, and often opened one. Never mind that my little hands could barely move the hardcover and turn its delicate pages. It felt half my size.
Mom said, "Any word you need. Any words you don't know the meaning of—use this book."
When I read more, and needed more, I asked for other titles, those with identical binder design—dark brown, gold outline and lettering—and was similarly told by Dad that I could use the “big people” books.
What were other pre-k to first graders reading? I wouldn't know. I learned almost all the known dog species by second and third grade; I also learned about the cat breeds a little later.
When a seventh grade science teacher paired me up with my friend, also a classmate, for a science project, my friend said we needed to go to the local public library for research. "No,” I told her. “We can go to my house. We have a library there." She must've thought it was just three books by the look she gave me.
By then, my dad had acquired another set, discarded by my junior high's library. We also had an older set, dating earlier than the World Book collection. But I had learned early on not to use those often. This particular set barely had photos, and most were poorly drawn illustrations—I did not realize, at the time, I was a budding artist—and what little photographs the books had were in black and white.
That afternoon, I led my friend into our house, to our sunroom. She gasped when she saw our three-piece bookcase. She grew more excited by our reference shelves.
"You weren't kidding!" she said.
"Then let's get started." I ran my finger over the binders, reciting which letter and secondary letter of the encyclopedias we would use for our class work research.
The next day, my friend bragged about my bookcases in science class. Our teacher was surprised by the level of research we had done.
"It's because of Carmen's library." My friend gushed to the teacher. "She has HUNDREDS of books! Like a real library!"
Carmen Welsh, (a.k.a. Kayfey, Angry Goblin, In Pretty Print, and Goblinrant), holds an Associate in Art Education from Miami-Dade Community College and a Bachelor of Science from Barry University in Information Technology. She's published stories and artwork in fanzines, anthology magazines, and e-zines. One of her earlier short fiction became a podcast. Carmen also contributes to various blogs and is part of a hive of nerdy/geeky writers for the Nerd Junk Food Blog. She tweets updates about latest projects and enjoys updating her own website: http://TabbertheRed.com without calling tech support. Carmen is a member of the Furry Writer's Guild.