With the death this week of acclaimed children's author, Maurice Sendak, I found myself reminiscing about the books I used to read to my children when they were young. In my humble opinion, there is no greater bonding experience for young children and their parents than sharing a favorite book together. This simple activity is so beneficial on so many levels: cognitive development for the child; honing in on the senses of hearing, seeing, and touching; physical awareness as two people share the close proximity of pages in motion; and the validation that spending time learning and discovering is what life is all about.
While I read consistently to all three of my children, only two really craved it. My other child did not truly enjoy literature until a friend introduced her to Harry Potter in the fourth grade. I will be forever grateful to J.K. Rowling for writing a story that finally connected with my daughter.
Back to Maurice Sendak's death. He is best known for his children's book, Where The Wild Things Are.
I was three years old in 1963 when this book came out. I was vaguely interested in it in elementary school but not a huge fan. Let's face it...the illustrations are scary and Max was a very naughty kid. His antics made me uncomfortable. While the story did not appeal to me, I was after all, an open minded mother, so I went ahead and bought it for our family library. I decided to let my children decide for themselves whether or not it would be a classic for them as it was for the rest of the world. Well, as it turned out, my kids felt the same way about the book as I did. As a bedtime story, it would illicit potential nightmares rather than sweet dreams. And reading it during the day wasn't any better. Thus, this book stayed on the bookshelf; the back of the shelf.
My children preferred wild things of a different sort. Two of the earliest favorite books of my oldest daughter were given to her when she was about 2-1/2 years old. The stories featured those "wild" bears, The Care Bears, in stories about friendship and going to bed at night:
These stories became one of those all time favorite books, with worn covers and ripped pages because they were so frequently requested. It didn't take long for me and my daughter to memorize the words, even at her young age. I found the picture above on Ebay. Someone was trying to sell this original 1983 duo (just like the ones I have stored in my attic). What flutters of joy I felt seeing this image and recalling the tender memories of reading to my little girl.
In the 1980's, Scholastic had an at-home book club where you could purchase hard cover books pretty cheaply. It only cost a dollar to start and they gave you six classic books to begin with. You just had to enter in to an agreement to purchase at least three more shipments before cancelling. What a deal. I was in heaven being able to stock our family library on a limited budget. (I've been trying to find a similar deal today for my daughter's family but haven't come across anything yet. Boo.) These books of "wild animals" became the "Please read to me AGAIN" stories:
When my son was born in 1990, those books didn't hold the same admiration for him as they did for his sisters. His ALL TIME favorite book was a wild bear book of another kind, the wonderful:
The rhymes of Bill Martin Jr. and the fabulous illustrations by Eric Carle captivated hiim. My son had to read that book several times a day, EVERY DAY, from the time he was about a year and a half until he was in the first grade.
Reading to my children at a young age was a great way to kindle their interest in learning of all kinds. I remember those days with such fondness. I look forward to continuing the tradition with my grandchildren. My grandson already loves to read stories. Maybe because my daughter has read to him ever since the day he was born and has made reading a daily (and sacred) ritual for them. I've kept my children's favorites to read to him when he visits our home. Already, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, is one of his favorites. I can't wait to see what kind of other "wild" books will become his favorite.
What books did your children enjoy having you read to them when they were growing up? What are you doing to help instill a love of reading for your grandchildren?