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Interview with Mary Ann Stone

Stone, Mary Ann
Gasperson, Deana
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places, stories and storytellers
Mary Ann Stone discusses the importance of reading, her preference for historical fiction for cultural enrichment, and the enjoyment she finds in reading to children.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Deana Gasperson interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DG (Deana Gasperson): Well, Mary Ann, I'm really glad that you can take some time and assist me with this class that we're taking for testing and evaluation in Teaching English as a Second Language. And one thing that we're looking at in the class is just reading. What you remember reading as a child, what you remember having read to you or even stories that you enjoy reading to your children and your new grand child.
MS (Mary Ann Stone): Mm-hmm.
DG: Now, so growing up are there any stories that you remember being read to or stories that you enjoyed?
MS: Well, I remember that, um, I was particularly fond of fairy tales. I remember reading a whole series. There was like the orange book and the yellow book and the green book and the blue book and this sort of thing. Uh, and many of them had really good, uh, morals, uh, to teach in the stories and I remember a lot of those things. But I really enjoyed, uh, the fairy tales particularly. My favorite one as I recall, was, um, um, let's see, Beauty and the Beast. So I was really pleased when, uh, there was a movie made of that and it was nice to see it in, in a visual, uh, form. But I was particularly taken with that story because, uh, it was difficult for me to understand as, as a young person why this princess would fall in love with this, uh, beast-like character. Now of course since I'm much older I can see that it was a wonderful, wonderful story, so that we look at the, uh, the thing that a person is inside as opposed to what their physical appearance is.
DG: Oh, I know, I agree. I enjoyed seeing that movie myself 'cause I don't even remember reading that story growing up but to see it on the screen it made you, give you more insights, I think into the story as an adult than as a child.
MS: Right, \\ right. \\
DG: \\ Are \\ there any stories that your children enjoyed having read to them?
MS: Oh, yes. Um, I had three children and, uh, my oldest daughter also liked fairy tales very much and she had a collection of those, I saw that she had them when I found out that she was interested in that. Um, my oldest son had a little book called Humbug Witch, and he adored that book. I, I don't really know why, it was a story of, uh, a little girl at Halloween who was going to be a, a witch and she ran around in, in a mask all the time. And was so surprised that people still knew who she was because she thought the mask hid her all together. And at the end of the story I remember she takes the mask off and, uh, you know, and lets everybody see \\ who-. \\
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: -She, she really is. So there are some morals you could read into that particular story too. Uh, this son has just had, uh, a baby and I have saved those books and I have just given, uh, him Humbug Witch-.
DG: \\ Aw. \\
MS: \\ -To \\ read to his son and of course you know that tradition carried on. He was really, uh, tickled that I had saved those, those things for him. Another couple of books he liked, that is as he got older, were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Glass Elevator. And of course the Chocolate Factory book was also made into a movie but just the, uh, the imagination-.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ -That \\ was in this, uh, those books were, were, uh, \\ impressive \\ to him.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: And then my youngest son was crazy about these, this little book called Just for You. And I remember how sweet that was that, uh, uh, it was just a little character that a little, a little fuzzy looking creature-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -That uh, tried to do things to please his mother and to please his father and he messed them up every time. And again, nice morals in this kind of story you know that, that people love you anyway, even if you mess up.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ No matter \\ how hard you try. So, he was fond of, of those books.
DG: Are there books that you enjoy reading now? What type of stories do enjoy reading now as an adult?
MS: Well, I had also read Bible stories to my children.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: And I continue to enjoy reading books set against a biblical background.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Um, that sort of thing. I love history.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Uh, I loved all of, um, gee if I can think of his name and I should, the fellow that, uh, um, Mitchner.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: James Mitchner, that, uh, wrote you know, fiction set against historical backgrounds of Centennial-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -And Chesapeake, and uh, Texas and some of those books were favorites of mine because of the, the sweep of history, the epic, um, scope of them, uh, those were the kind of books that, uh, that I really enjoy reading.
DG: Mm-hmm. I know, I enjoy that, I enjoy historical fiction myself, and history. I'm a history person. So especially those stories where they are set in, about the Middle East \\ that I-. \\
MS: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
DG: -Think, um, are sort of my favorite because then the history is true to form-.
MS: Right.
DG: -And then they've integrated people and made it more of a fictional thing. But it gives you information about the, the history of the area and it brings it into a personal \\ situation. \\
MS: \\ Right. \\ And also, I think that if you read about, uh, read aga-, about, uh, historical uh, things, it, especially if their set against what you know is, is true history, I'll say actual history, uh, even if, if the story itself is, is fiction, uh, I think it helps you to understand, uh, current \\ situations \\ more-.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: -Because you have some idea of, of where a certain area, how the development was there, and you read things about it now, particularly the Middle East.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: And you have uh, a lot more information than you did, uh, if you hadn't, hadn't read some of those things that gave you the background.
DG: Oh, I know, it does. So, you would say that the history is thing, things that you enjoy and, and you enjoy reading \\ in the Bible and. \\
MS: \\ Well, right. \\ I think that we, we repeat-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -Uh, things and the more you know about history the more you are able to look at current events in, uh, in a more promising kind of light or to understand it a lot better.
DG: Do your children, I know Eric enjoys reading, but do your other children, do they enjoy reading?
MS: Uh, yes. In fact they were really pleased that I had kept all of these books for, uh, grandchildren that we hope will be coming along. I had the youngest son ask me not too many years ago if I was still collecting books, and I said, "Yes." No grandchildren you know, uh, and no grandchildren in sight, but I would still, uh, begin to collect books because there were things that I wanted to have passed on. Uh, things like um, uh, the Beatrix Potter things. Uh, and I remember again, in terms of reading to my children, um, I grew up in Georgia, and I loved the Uncle Remus stories, and, and the author's home was in Atlanta and so there was a personal connection to that and I had an opportunity to tell my children about that.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ So \\ things like that meant something to me. And of course Gone with the Wind, I mean what person from Georgia wouldn't enjoy the scope of Gone with the, Gone with the Wind?
DG: Oh, I know.
MS: Again history.
DG: Yeah, from that standpoint. [pause] Well, one thing I think about, Mary Ann is that the times that we're living in, that in many ways, reading is becoming a lost art for so many people. Especially I think of young people because they're seeing videos, they're seeing, they'll go to the movies, they go to TV, they're really not spending time reading as much as they use to and, and personally I think that's sad.
MS: Well Deana, I agree with you. Um, I, I think of the time that I spent in library reading rooms when I was just a child and just the joy of looking at all the different books that were available. And, uh, in growing up you know of course, first it was picture books and those kind of things, and then through the fairy tales and then just really enjoying, um, reading about other people and other places. And you know, you could just really see the whole world through your own imagination, uh, by reading and you didn't have to depend on a video, not that there's anything wrong with \\ them-. \\
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: -But you could create your own 'mind video-.'
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -Uh, through reading and learn so many things. And I think now of a lot of the great classics that people want to absorb through Cliff Notes or to absorb through a movie and many times they don't stay with, uh, with the true, uh, seam of the story and so you, you haven't really captured what the author, uh, intended in a lot of, uh, movies and things. But I just think of, um, the idea that we might even still be studying the Bible as literature because so many of the classics have allusions-.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ -To \\ scripture in them and years ago, everybody understood that. You had studied the Bible, authors would write, would refer to a certain something and everybody immediately knew, uh, to what he was referring and now that's lost.
DG: Oh, I know.
MS: You know, it's just lost, people have, uh, so a certain amount of literature is not even as illuminated-.
DG: Um-hmm.
MS: -Uh, as it was in one period of time. Oh, I would encourage, uh, parents, uh, to en-, encourage them to read to their children when they're little and to instill a real love-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -Of just going to the library instead of sitting down at a, at a computer. And just enjoying holding books, \\ looking at books-. \\
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: -Looking at the pictures, turning the pages, uh, that sort of thing because as a child, uh, I did not have an opportunity to travel a great deal, but I saw the world.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: I saw the whole world, you know, I went to China and I went to India and I went to South America, uh, through books and, and I loved that.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: I, it's an experience I wouldn't give up, there's a richness there that you cannot convey to other people but that you would love to have them experience through reading.
DG: Oh yes, I know. I think about before I went to China, I read Walk Across China\\ by-. \\
MS: \\ Hmm. \\
DG: -Peter Jenkins and that was one thing that prepared me because even though he was going to a different area, but it prepared me a little bit for the country, for the culture, gave me insights into the background of the people that I don't think I could have gathered. I could have from a video to a sense, but I think when you to get the personal verbal perspective of a person as they're writing and the honesty that was there, it really prepared me. So in a, in a sort of a way for what I was going to expect when I went to China. And I think that, uh, also I think of Ann of Green Gables.
MS: Mm-hmm.
DG: So many people read those as a child and I didn't read them till really as an adult, but just reading and then, and then I read them and then watched the video. And it just made me want to travel to that \\ portion \\ of Canada-.
MS: \\ Hmm. \\
DG: -Because you just saw how beautiful it was. And also just how people lived back in that era, and, uh, just the culture in the Canadian area, it was very interesting, I really enjoyed that a lot.
MS: Well, you know I enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew Mysteries when I was a young girl, uh, too. Partially because uh, uh some of them took place so many more y-, years before I had, uh, come on the scene. And I loved hearing them talk about the parties and the kind of clothes and just getting a glimpse back, uh, you know from years in which I hadn't lived.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Uh, and finding out too, that girls were clever.
DG: Oh, yeah.
MS: Uh, you know it, it wasn't just the fellows that were smart, but she was one smart cookie with her friends.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ And \\ so I remember enjoying, I think Nancy Drew might have inspired me even a little bit just as a, a \\ girl-. \\
DG: \\ Uh-huh. \\
MS: -Accomplishing things and having really good mental, uh, capabilities. You know Deana, another thing I love about reading, too is th-, that you can't get in visual, uh, pictures no matter how rich they are. It's just the way that words and phrases are strung together.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: And the pictures that they conjure up that can be done with words. Uh, it, visuals are one medium, and they're rich in that sense, but just, I think it helps your writing and your communication skills to see how a really good writer has put words together, has put phrases together.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: To create a picture or to convey an atmosphere to, you know, many times you can, can almost smell the smoke in a room.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: \\ Or \\ you know, you can smell something that's cooking or you can see birds, flocks of birds, flying and, and just images that are in your mind that, uh, you can create in a way that, uh, you don't enjoy in visuals because you created them. They're yours.
DG: Oh, I know. That's very true because it helps you appreciate, the English Language.
MS: Yes.
DG: And I think seeing it in the written form, rather than hearing \\ it-. \\
MS: \\ Sure. \\
DG: -But I think the eloquence that, uh, and as you say, just it allows just your imagination. I think so much is lost with TV and movies. It leaves nothing to the \\ imagination-. \\
MS: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
DG: -Anymore and I think by reading that it, it a, it really enables you to use your imagination and to picture it \\ in a sense. \\
MS: \\ You're right. \\ And it becomes a personal experience, um, something that you are sharing with an author.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Yes he's unseen, but there's some sort of a bond that can be formed there just because he is communicating, he or she, is communicating to you, uh, something that may be meaningful-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -Uh, to you and you're not necessarily sharing that with somebody else. Now of course if it's a children's book you have this wonderful opportunity for parent and child to share something delightful, \\ you know- \\
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: -Something that may bring laughs, something that may be, um, well, a really good lesson to learn.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Some really good life principles and that sort of thing but I think remember reading and growing up that I had this, uh, wonderful sense of relationship with a, with an author just through what I was, uh, reading.
DG: Um-hmm. I know it's good to, to see. I know in, in my life, I read a lot to my nephew whenever \\ we \\got together-.
MS: \\ Hmm. \\
DG: -That I would read to him, and we'd go to the library and, and it's just good to see that he enjoys reading to this day.
MS: Hmm.
DG: He reads a lot of variety of things. But, uh, he enjoys reading, and I think it wasn't just because of me but I think some of the seeds were sown, in his life by reading, being read to. I think it's important to read to children and then they develop that habit and then themselves become reading adults.
MS: Well, I agree with you because reading really is a gift.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: Uh, and you don't know how to receive that gift unless somebody introduces you to that and gives it to you and it's such a precious gift. I'm sorry that more children don't receive it, uh, today and that we have sound bites and you know that everything is so abbreviated and that television is a, is a quick line and a quick picture, and an-, you only get the, a very superficial-.
DG: Mm-hmm.
MS: -Uh, bit of something sometimes when with reading if you take it, you know it, it's a banquet, it's a very rich and satisfying experience with a great deal of depth to it. So I think that children can and re-, uh, uh books, excuse me, books, can enrich children, uh, in a way that they cannot even conceive. So it's up, really up to adults to introduce them to, uh, that wonderful experience.
DG: Oh, I know, I agree. Well Mary Ann, I appreciate you giving me some time today and us discussing this and how would you sort of summarize how you feel about reading and the impact that it has, it has on your life and also on children and grandchildren's life.
MS: Well, uh, summarize Deana, let's see that's going to make me think real quick, isn't it? Um, I would say for myself that I feel like my life has been enriched in a way that I would not want to have not experienced. Uh, I'm glad I didn't miss it, let's say that. And I want to have that same thing available to my children and, and grandchildren, just this joy of escaping or going somewhere \\ else \\ or being informed by another book. But in terms of summary, uh, I would just say that reading can bring enormous enjoyment that you can have alone or you can share with another. And I would say that it certainly contributes to, uh, your ability to continue to learn life long and to have a real uh, a real joy in doing that.
DG: \\ Mm-hmm. \\
MS: So I appreciate your asking me about it.
DG: Well, thank you very much. And with your permission, can this tape be used and transcript be used, I guess for further research that's going to be used for a \\ project-.\\
MS: \\ Sure. \\
DG: -Here at UNCC?
MS: Sure.
MS: Happy to contribute to it.
DG: Well, I appreciate your time and thank you very much.