We always had at least a few coloring books in our toy cupboard on River Road. Some were gifts; others Mother had purchased. Some were advertisements for products or companies: there was one from a shoe store and a little one that came in the box with a home permanent. We probably picked up a couple more in the Merchant’s Building during the county fair.
Theme possibilities were endless; circus animals, Bible stories, farm scenes, and trains offer just a few examples. Books ranged in size from thin ones containing few pages to “regular” sized ones. There were also jumbo books that were hard to flatten out for level coloring conditions.
For me, the actual drawings were most important. I did not like fussy scenes or skinny little pictures. I wanted bold figures, bordered by thick lines, with ample space for color. I would inevitably choose a simple bouquet of posies over a yard full of trees, butterflies, and flowers with tiny petals difficult to color with a worn-down crayon.
I heavily outlined each section of a picture with an appropriate color and then used the same crayon to lightly finish the area – with my coloring strokes all going in the same direction. Some sisters applied full crayon pressure, and others colored in bright, free-form scribbles. There were also “interesting” color choices; one sister went through a black period, which resulted in coloring books full of black cupcakes, black frogs, and black rainbows.
There was often a fine line between negotiation and all-out warfare if Mother expected us to share a coloring book. For two little kids to find acceptable pictures on facing pages, share the same blue crayon, accommodate a squirmy colorer and a more deliberate artist – well, coloring was not always the quiet activity she might have envisioned.
As I rummaged through my coloring book memories, I wondered if today’s kids still color. Nieces and nephews who are now parents live too far away to allow first-hand observation. Assuming that present-day toddlers and preteens spend many hours with computer tablets, I posted my question on Facebook. In addition to family, several of my “Friends” are former students with children themselves; some are also teachers.
The resulting “mixed bag” of answers showed no clear-cut classifications. Although many new-generation kids do enjoy lots of “screen time,” coloring remains an occasional-to-frequent activity of the modern set. Some love to color; others may color only at the suggestion of a parent. Some color for hours; others stay focused for much shorter periods of time. Some color for the joy of coloring; others are attracted by a specific picture: a truck or a Minion or a Frozen princess.
At their disposal, however, is an amazing array of markers and crayons in every possible updated version of the basic eight Crayolas: metallic, neon, glitter, magic – and unthinkably named “macaroni and cheese” and “dirt.”
Facebook responses also confirmed a trend I had already noticed: some adults still like to color. One mom likes to color with her daughter, but another former-student-now-mother openly confessed her own continued pursuit of the activity. And my psychologist niece mentioned the recent purchase of several adult coloring books.
I recently read an article about the phenomenal success of coloring books for grown-ups and just last week saw a television commercial for Colorama. Amazon is selling millions of coloring books to adults by marketing them as stress relievers, as an alternative to computers, as a way to “let your inner child out to play.” Again, themes are unlimited: cats, Zen, paisley, secret gardens, inspirational sayings – with most designs appearing as ultra-intricate doodles.
Although I have been tempted, I fear that coloring would give me another excuse not to do housework. However, if this childhood diversion actually returns as an adult pastime, refrigerators all over America may just be sporting double displays of coloring talent.
I close this week’s column with words of sincere appreciation. Last July Brenda Burns agreed to publish my articles every Monday in the UDC. In the 12 months following her most welcome decision, it has been a true pleasure to share my “blogs.”
I do not write in a vacuum. I thank the gals at school who listened patiently as I read my first writing attempts aloud at lunch. Mark Arnold, former student and husband of Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sandi Arnold, urged me to submit my articles and remains a faithful consultant. Former students and now Graham teachers, Lori Zimmerman Black and Chasity Hoey Oburn, have kindly provided windows into their elementary classrooms. Ingrid Klimke-Schmoll, former exchange colleague and dear friend, is my go-to German expert.
I rarely mention my siblings by name, but they provide frequent encouragement and helpful responses about childhood details: Carolyn Leporini in West Virginia, Connie Plank in Tennessee, Bev Rambo in Oxford, Ohio, and Tim Scott in Arkansas.
I cannot express adequate gratitude to my sister, Barb Sell, right here in Urbana. She reads every single article – sometimes several versions – pointing out typos and illogical transitions as well as providing support and praise.
Please know that I write for UDC readers. From them, I have received e-mails, phone calls, letters, and Facebook posts; I cherish every message and word of recognition. I feel most complimented and proud when a reader shares this thought: “Your article made me think about my…”
Thanks to all!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976 to 2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn- Gymnasium in Springe.