Monday, June 1, 2009

A Life in Books

I love to read. I have since... well, forever. When I was a little girl I was diagnosed with vesicoureteral reflux and proceeded to endure same-day surgeries every six months from the ages of three to sixteen to make sure that my kidney was continuing to function properly in spite of the birth-defect. The only thing that made those days okay--IVs, blood tests, and all--was that my mom and dad took turns reading to me. Book after book after book. Hour after hour after hour. Talk about escape. I can still see the pictures of my favorite book in the children's ward: it was a Sylvester and Tweety story, a little squat box of a book that I made my dad read and re-read.

That early love for reading never let go. I still devour a couple books a week, and I don't feel at all guilty about it because I consider it research! And now, in addition to reading books for my own enjoyment, I have the distinct pleasure of reading to my kids.

It started with Sandra Boynton's silly tales. Then Laura Numeroff's adventures in cause and effect (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...). And now my kids' bookshelf rivals my own because I can't stop myself from buying books. There's something so special about owning them, reading them again and again, loving the corners to tatters and the staining the covers with morning chocolate milk and two-year-old drool. I know, I'm nuts. But I can't stop.

Yes, I love the picture books, the funny stories that rhyme and make my kids laugh. But now that my oldest has crossed the threshold of preschool, I'm starting to read chapter books to him. And to my delight, he loves them! We've made it through Stuart Little, a dozen Magic Treehouse books, Stink: the Amazing Shrinking Kid, the original Robin Hood, C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and we're halfway through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Our latest book seems a bit over his head, but he's loving it all the same. Best of all, as we read we're delving into some heady topics: slavery, oppression, what it means to be a man of integrity... Oh, books are much, much more than simply a diversion.

Anyway, what about you? Are you are a reader? If so, what (or who) got you hooked on books? And, if you'd be willing to share, what was your favorite childhood read? I adored Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. If you've never read Over Sea, Under Stone, you simply have to pick it up. Skip the library this time--buy it. Stain it a little. And then pass it on to your kids. They'll thank you for it.


  1. i've been a reader for as long as i can remember and i remember my mom reading to me and says she read to me even in the womb. i used to hide under the covers with a flashlight to read at night when i was supposed to be going to sleep. i hated playing outside unless i was sitting under a tree with a book in my hands. i can't really remember a favorite book though.

  2. Thank you for the Susan Cooper suggestion! I will certainly pick it up on my weekly visit to the bookstore. My five-year-old and I have been regularly devouring chapter books together, and her reading skills are now soaring. We just finished "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" and "James and the Giant Peach," two of my childhood favorites. My little girl is now asking to delve into classics such as "A Wrinkle in Time," and "Little Women." I'd have to say that my all-time favorite, however, would be "The Secret Garden." I find myself still yearning for that sort of dreamy, gothic montage of imagery, which is why I'm hooked on authors like Kate Morton so much right now.

    Speaking of imagery, I thought your use of it in "The Moment Between" was exquisite! I can't wait for your novel! You remain one of my very favorite writers.

  3. Amy, I did the covers and flashlight thing, too! It's kind of a famous bookworm-ish image... My son saw a little boy reading under his covers in a movie recently and now he wants a flashlight so he can make a "book-tent." I loved his made-up term. :)

    Thanks for the great suggestions, Sherry! I had almost forgotten about NIMH. As for The Dark is Rising series, it is a bit geared for older kids. There's a lot of suspense and drama which gets more intense as the series goes on. The first (Over Sea, Under Stone) is pretty tame (a modern-day search for the holy grail), but the plots do escalate. The over-arching theme is very hope-filled and even Christian in its undertones, but I will wait a few years to read it to my five-year-old. Just thought you'd like to know! BTW, thank you for the lovely comments. :)

  4. I owe my love of books to "Quiet Time". We were required to spend an hour or two in our rooms every day and I fell into a book during these times.

    Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll look into it.
    ~ Wendy

  5. I make my kids have quiet time, too! My little one still sleeps (today we're at 3 hours and counting) but my Big Boy reads. I start him off with a chapter of our book, then he spends the rest of the hour looking at Highlights magazine or Calvin and Hobbes books. He doesn't get the cartoons, of course, but he's starting to understand the point of sarcasm. Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't have taught him that quite so soon... ;)

  6. I've already started reading to Brogan. I can't wait for him to reach the age when he can ask, "Mommy, will you read to me?" I love reading and hope my son will adopt that same love for himself.

    My first-love book? The Phantom Tollbooth. I just LOVED that book. Couldn't put it down. And then years later, I read it again (to my 5th graders) and couldn't believe how fun it was! Norton Juster has such a play on words throughout the entire thing.

  7. Every once in a while a gem completely escapes you. I've never heard of the Phantom Tollbooth. Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. Oh! You must read it! Maybe I'm biased since I have such a nostalgic connection to it (late nights up in bed, reading under my covers).... but I LOVE this book. I read it to my 5th graders every year. It's pretty old. Let me know if you read it and what you think. If you like word play, you'll love this one. :)

  9. You would love the book A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson. Though written from a Catholic homeschooling perspective, it's still a wealth of information about reading aloud to our kids and the benefits associated with doing so. I would definitely check it out. You can find Cay at