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Scouting for Good Reads

by Saralyn Richard


One of my most memorable activities from childhood was being
a part of the Girl Scouts. My Girl Scout troop was phenomenal. Our leaders,
Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Martin, made sure every meeting was a learning experience
and a social experience worth our time and effort. We went on several trips,
including one to the Alamo in San Antonio, the State Capitol in Austin, and to
a dude ranch in New Braunfels. Many of the girls in our troop are still among
my close friends today.

The scout program encouraged each girl to select an area to “specialize”
in, with the goal of earning a badge in that field. I earned many badges in my
time, but my favorite was—no surprise here—the reading badge. The reading badge
didn’t require me to go out into scorching hot, mosquito-infested campgrounds.
I didn’t have to prove proficiency at knot-tying (although I recall doing
something like that anyway), sharp-tool-wielding, or fire-starting. All I had
to do was chill with a book in the comfort of my house, which was my favorite
activity anyway.

The reading badge turned out not to be that easily obtained,
however. If memory serves me correctly, I had to read a hundred books, most of
them required. Lots of these books were Newbery Award winners. Many of them
were classics. Most were long. Some of the titles I remember were Hittie:  Her First Hundred Years, Desiree, King of the
Wind, Johnny Tremain, Adam of the Road, Caddie Woodlawn, Little Women, Black
Beauty, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Pippi Longstocking, Robinson Crusoe.
remember sitting in the elementary school library, reading every chance I could.

Even though I was an avid reading before I decided to work
on the badge, I benefitted in numerous ways from reading so many excellent books. My vocabulary increased, as did my understanding of diverse cultures and
themes. Most of all, my love of reading grew exponentially. The more I read,
the more I craved clever story lines, exquisite descriptions, fascinating

I’m sure the reading badge contributed to my choosing to
major in English and to teach high school English. More than likely, it inspired
me to try my hand at writing, too.

I decided to see what the requirements are for the reading
badge today, and here’s what I found out. Girl Scouts has modernized its “curriculum.”
The options for badges, awards, and pins include more practical topics, like
saving the environment, becoming financially literate, becoming a space science
researcher, and leading in the digital world. See
for a complete list. A scout can earn a reading diva patch (see here),
but so little is required that one could earn that in a week’s time.

At the risk of sounding like an anachronism, I’m sad that
the opportunities afforded by the rigorous reading badge no longer exist for
young girls. At the same time, I’m extremely grateful that I earned mine when I

Were you a big reader when you were younger? What were some
of your most memorable books read?


Richard’s award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and children’s book
pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor
houses and disadvantaged urban high schools.
 Saralyn’s most recent release is Bad Blood Sisters. A
member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America,
Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning
Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an
author is interacting with readers like you.
here, on her
Amazon page 
here, or on Facebook here.



8 replies
  1. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Congratulations, Saralyn, for being certifiably well-read! Though I read like a maniac as a child, I'd never heard of a couple of the books you mentioned. It's sad to know that the requirements for the GS reading badge are less stringent today, which seems to be a symptom of our current state of public education. I worry that children are growing up to accept mediocrity without ever understanding what it takes to strive for excellence.

  2. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    As a former Girl Scout and leader, I'm sorry this badge isn't what it was. Like you, I was an avid reader. My favorite accomplishment was finishing a summer reading program at our public library in 2 days. The theme was traveling across the country – they had me travel back to where I started, but that only took a few more days. After that, I simply read at the same pace, but for fun.

  3. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    I still have my Girl Scouts sash with all the badges and pins I earned. I don't remember how many books I had to read to earn the reading badge, but I do remember the weekly trips to the local library, especially in the summer, to stock up on books, some of which were the same ones you mentioned.

    • Saralyn
      Saralyn says:

      I wonder how many of us earned that badge, Lois. And how many who then became writers. Here's a theory: good readers make good writers!

  4. Lynn McPherson
    Lynn McPherson says:

    Sounds like a great experience! I read a lot, too. Two of my favorite series were Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I read all those Grosset & Dunlap books–Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, and Cherry somebody who was a nurse. I didn't know at the time that the books were ghost-written by different authors. I remember being so disappointed when I found that out.

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