In my baby book my mom wrote: “A book worm–she loved all books. At 2 years her favorites were Dumbo, Children’s Garden of Verses, Alice in Wonderland. Was always eager for Cinderella, Goldilocks, etc.” My parents read to us every single night. I left home for college when my youngest brother was 5, and they were still reading. They tended to pick books of interest to the older children, so the younger ones were exposed to Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Books, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in ththe Willows, etc. at an early age. When they visited my first daughter Anne the day she was born, my parents brought her three picture books.
My mom and dad were consummate book worms. Our local library was a tiny volunteer operation in an old church. They took us to the Hempstead Library, three miles away. We were each allowed to take out as many books as we could carry; once I managed 20. My first library card seemed magical. I vividly remember my awe when I realized that card was a passport to the entire world. Wherever I have been in the world, libraries are home. Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Three-year-old Molly’s kitten-holding technique was not optimal in 1985. She assured me she could talk to animals, and I absolutely believed her. Reading to toddlers and preschoolers is one of life’s supreme pleasures. It is the natural follow-up to breastfeeding. Preschoolers who are read to realize that reading aloud is a wonderful way to nurture someone. I recall my daughter Jane’s saying to her doll, “Don’t cry baby. Mommy will read to you.” I always read aloud to the older girls when I was nursing the baby.
I take care of my grandson Michael three days a week. Since birth his mother, father, and I have read to him everyday. He enjoys the same books his mother and aunts did–Mother Goose
, Dr. Seuss
, Frog and Toad
, Make Way for Ducklings, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Runaway Bunny, Where the Wild Things Are
. At 22 months his attention span often outlasts my voice. Sometims he will sit on the floor by himself with a pile of books, “I read.”
Michael’s mother Emma loved the Curious George books. She loved them so much that both my parents and I gave her the same giant Curious George for her second Christmas. She grew up to be a curious Emma who spent her 20s and early 30s working around the world in 75 world cities, living in Kosovo, Niger, and Rwanda
Now her son loves Curious George just as much. Watching my daughter read to my grandson the same book I read to her, her sisters, and my brothers is lovely beyond my powers to describe.
Do you ever go back and read your favorite children’s books? At any age, it illuminating to try to find out what books you wanted read to you again and again. I remember Emma’s calling me from college, thrilled that she had made a new friend who loved the same children’s books. After my dad died, I loved to read again the books he read to me and my five brothers; the books and the memories seemed to bring him back. So many of the best children’s books never go out of print, so you can buy your favorite books for the children in your lives.