I love to read. I always have. From a young age my mom nurtured a love for reading and books that rivaled her own voracious appetite. A good portion of my childhood and teen years were fondly spent laying on a blue love-seat underneath the picture window of our house pouring through the stacks of books I checked out from our local library each week.
I don’t remember many books from early on in my early childhood but the ones that I do are so vivid in my mind. There was Johnny Goes To the Hospital, a book from the 1950s where a little boy has his appendix removed. My Grandma Ann would read it to my sister and I during sleepovers before tucking us into the softest, cream blanket. There’s video of me around age six or seven earnestly reading a book called “The Cake that Mack Ate,” while my adorable two-year old sister steals the spotlight by standing right in front of the camera while I, full of older sister angst, yell “KRISTINE! I’M TRYING TO READ” And perform. Duh. Get out of my spotlight.
It was engrained in me early on that the Caldecott Medal on a book meant it was a legit read. Levar Burton told me to take a look, it’s in a book, and I was flying high on that reading rainbow. Roald Dahl’s The Twits creeped me out (and still sort of does). I grew up with Ramona Quimby as my bestie. I was earning Pizza Hut Personal Pan pizzas on the regular through their Book It! program. The Boxcar Children totally made homeless, orphan life seem glamorous. To this day, I still remember the way Jessie cleverly turned the cold-water creek near their boxcar into a makeshift refrigerator and Benny’s chipped milk cup that he insisted on using even when they found out they were rich beyond their wildest dreams. I chuckled at The Wayside School series. I devoured Judy Blume after picking up a copy of Just As Long As We’re Together at a garage sale. Funny story, I pronounced the name of one of the title characters, Rachel, as RAH-SHELL for the longest time. I freaked myself out at night with the Goosebumps series. I sobbed during the ending of Where The Red Fern Grows. Even recently I tried to provide Joe with a plot synopsis after it randomly came up and I could barely get the words out I was still so emotional. When Goosebumps became too pedestrian, I graduated to Christopher Pike and RL Stine’s YA novels. A little horror, a little tawdry teen love and experimentation – what’s not to like? Lest you think I was only into horror, I also threw in a little Sweet Valley High to balance things out. Total Elizabeth over here – wasn’t that Jessica such a bitch?
Funny sidebar of a story. I was tearing through everything in the YA section. Definitely wasn’t as robust as a genre as it is now. As a result, at the age of 14 it led me to check out the latest RL Stine adult novel. Fear Street this was not. My mom never really screened what I was reading – hell, I was reading! Wasn’t that the most important thing? All of that changed when I innocently, within the first chapter of the book, I asked her what the word “blow-job” meant. How she held it together, I do not know. But I got quite an education that day and was told that I would have to read the book when I was a little older.
Then came college. As an English major I read a lot but none of it was anything I really wanted to be reading anyway. Except for the senior seminar class I took on JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I don’t speak Elvish, but I am a huge nerd, so I will defend that choice to my dying days.
After college, I began to read for pleasure again. The 7th and final Harry Potter book came out when I was living in Chicago. I stood in line at Border’s, by myself, on a Friday night at midnight to obtain a copy of it. On my way home, I picked up some 7/11 hot pockets and stayed up for four hours reading it straight through. Oh Snape!
My long distance relationship with Joe fueled my reading habit. Each week I was picking up a new title at Border’s to read on the plane to NYC. Why, living on a meager post-college salary I didn’t think to utilize my library card more often, or at all, is beyond me.
I am one of those people who become attached to characters and feel disappointed at the end of a good book. Why is it over? Can’t I just live in that world? Can’t these characters be my best friends? I cry when I’m moved. I feel disturbed down to my core at times depending on the plot. I love reading. And I miss it so. My book intake the past five years has been extremely limited. The free time I do have is usually eaten up by mindless Bravo TV programs where I watch people my own age, unencumbered by children, drink themselves into oblivion and make bad choices that are highly entertaining.
Therefore, the majority comes from what the kids and I read together. Usually at night before bed as they’ve never been the type of kids to go willingly to their bookshelf and ask me to sit and read to them at random. I’m not panicking yet as we have plenty of time to change that.
In the early days, there’s a lot of board books – your Goodnight, Moon and anything Susan Boynton – your titles that are quick, easy and appropriate for a short attention span. Now we are in a place where both kids can sit and enjoy a story with a little more depth and plot.
And I absolutely love it. Two weeks ago I found this compilation of Berenstain Bear stories that had been sitting on AJR’s shelf for the longest time. I asked him if he wanted to read these, explaining that these were some of my favorite books growing up and he agreed. My walk down literary memory lane was more than enough for me, but the icing on the cake was that he loved these stories too. As I mentioned before, my kids view books as part of the bedtime routine but those Bears compelled him to go upstairs in the middle of the day, retrieve the book, and ask me to read a few of the stories to him. Papa Bear is a total dolt and definitely married up with Mama Bear, but it’s so fun to watch something that I remember growing up becoming a part of his childhood too.
Reading is such a wonderful thing and I want to foster any sort of love they have for it as much as possible. Even if it means obliging a request to read “another one” despite the fact that it’s already past bedtime. Or let them select the longest book on their shelf despite my exhaustion. Reading was clearly such a big part of my life and opened up so many new worlds and ideas and people and thoughts. How could I not want to pass that along to my own kids? And who knows, if I play my cards right, in a few years we’ll hopefully be reading Harry Potter together.
While reading is a fun activity that we can enjoy together, there are some awful books out there. However, these are a few of my kid-tested, mother-approved favorites below. I would love to hear any others you may have to add to our repertoire.
Lynn’s Recommended Reading List:
The Book With No Pictures – HEE-larious. Especially when you make your straight-laced, cynical husband read it one night with zero warning. What a boo-boo butt he was!
Dragons Love Tacos – This book inspired AJR to develop a love of tacos, which is always a win in my book.
Creepy Carrots –
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
No, David! – it can err on the side of glamorizing bad behavior, but still cute and worth a read
The Book With No Pictures is an absolute must. Joe reading this for the first time while I waited with impending glee at the really silly parts he unknowingly had to read was the best. The kids ensuing giggles, were a close second.
The Day The Crayons Quit – I can barely read the letter from the Yellow crayon, and it is a bit on the long side, but it’s humorous and fun to try out different voices for the crayons