Last night my wife and I were playing with our 15 month-old daughter, Hope, and we started using phrases from one of the silly, charming books we read to her. Our little squeal-machine looked at us, walked over to her “Library of Congress”, and pulled out the title we were referencing. She brought it over to us, then flopped in my wife’s lap and pointed at the cover.
I have socks older than this kid, yet this story has already imprinted on her.
What’s even more impressive is to watch her “read” on her own. Granted, that mostly involves her flipping pages and babbling at the pictures, but she’s flying solo. She seems genuinely love reading, so I hope she continues enjoying it for many years to come.
I know I have.
Roger's Umbrella was the first book I can remember my mother reading to me. A tale about a young tiger whose undisciplined umbrella drags him to the yard of some ladies who teach him how to talk to his umbrella. It was a silly, charming story, but at 4-years old, I begged her to read it to me every night. Thankfully, she obliged.
Several years later, my Uncle Ed started sending me books for my birthday. These were “big books” from the era of fancy reading club subscriptions and each came with an elegant binding and cardboard protector. All of them were “classics”, from Dickens and Shakespeare to the Jungle Book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and just about every Mark Twain story ever penned. I gobbled them up, voraciously tearing through book after book. Some were great reads. Others were…not. Especially for a kid.
As I grew, my tastes changed, but the passion for reading never diminished. I devoured every Gordon Korman title* I could get my hands on, then Dave Barry, then Clive Cussler. When I started making my own money, the local book shop knew me on a first name basis. Even as an adult, whenever I’d come home to visit, Mom and I would make a trip to the bookstore. Reading was one of our shared joys and one of the many things I miss the most now that she’s gone.
That’s the power of books. They offer life-long access to infinite worlds filled with wondrous characters. Introducing kids to this universe of storytelling is a gift that continues giving long after the batteries have died in an expensive toy or the soles have worn out on a pair of fashion-forward shoes. It's wellspring of imagination and creativity that will last from their first memories until their dying day.
Hope never met her grandmother, but cracking open the same book every night, I can’t help feeling Mom’s influence. She introduced me to the joy of reading and now that I have a daughter, I’m introducing it to Hope. Maybe it’ll ignite the same passion in her and maybe, like with Mom and I, it’ll be something she and I can share when she’s grown.
And if so, it will all have started with one silly, charming book.
*”Who is Bugs Potter” is still one of my favorites.
Joshua Roots is a car enthusiast, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.
His Urban Fantasy series, The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.