November 3, 2010

OK, so as a writer, everyone knows I can’t read books fast enough. But when I found out I was having a boy – I did a HORRIBLE thing. I pre-judged that boys were not as easily able to sit for long periods of time as girls. Therefore, I assumed my children would not be interested in books, no matter how hard I tried.

And what do they say about assume? Half of it spelled out is: ASS.

I was so wrong.

My boys adore books. Instead of turning on the television, they beg for me to read to them. They read by themselves in their room, at the table, and all night. Now, fellow mommies, please do not think I am bragging or trying to make everyone jealous. They are television addicts also and I have done other terrible things to them, so just because they read don’t think I scored high on the perfect mommy scale. NOT.

Back to the books.

I noticed my foray into children’s books unearthed some new classics, all time favorites, and oldies but goodies. Sometimes what I found I loved as a kid my boys turned their nose up at. Very disappointing. I have a large photo of GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, in their room, but they always hated the book. And they don’t like Good Night Moon – are you kidding me? Who doesn’t like that book? But what amazed me about the reading was not the unconscious skills they’re forming, or learning their letters, or other important things. No, what really got me is the lessons they’re taking from the books they read on a daily basis.

The other night, my older one asked me to put him to bed. He specifically requested I put him to bed the way Little Bill’s grandma put him to bed – with the magic blanket so the things in the closet can’t get him. Having read the book a million times, I shook out the blanket, smoothed out the wrinkles, and tucked it under his chin. I said the magic words” Oh magic blanket, protect Jake from all the bad things.” Then my gorgeous five year old sighed and thanked me. And said this, “You know mommy, I just can’t believe it. The wolf is back.”

“What wolf?” I asked.

He sighed impatiently. “Remember the wolf I used to dream about when I was four? Well, he’s back. I saw his shadow on the wall, and I got scared, but then I remembered the magic blanket and I knew it wasn’t real.”

Are you kidding me?  First of all, he’s talking about being four like it was a decade ago. And I remember that wolf well – that wolf forced four people and a dog to share a bed. Second, how could he have possibly made such a rational leap from a book? But he did.

My little one asked me for juice the other day and did not use the magic word. He promptly apologized and I hadn’t even caught the slip. “What are you sorry for honey?” I asked.

“Not using my manners.”

My mouth fell open. “How wonderful! Did you learn that from your teachers in pre-k? Or mommy? (hey, I can hope.)

He shook his head no.”We read about it in the please and thank you book. Remember mommy?”

Yep. But he actually heard the lesson? Remarkable.

Of course there were other cases that did not turn out so well. Like when my oldest drew a remarkable painting on the wall in purple crayon for Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Or when he made weird noises that he proudly told me were farts from Walter the Farting Dog.

Or when my little one pointed to a little old lady in the grocery store wearing a funny hat and shouted, “No, I do not like that hat!” from Go Dog Go.

But the majority worked out fine.

Bottom line? Books rock. All of them. Even the ones parents are afraid of, that talk about sex or violence or other scary stuff. Because books teach – even the lessons we don’t want them to learn. Coming from a girl who marked all the passages of Judy Blume’s,  Forever. Coming from a woman who writes romance novels because when she was 14, she picked up a Silhouette Desire and realized dating didn’t have to be a terrible, awkward mess, and that one day I would feel strong, independent, and meet my match, just like those heroines. Those books provided me hope, a needed escape, and a place to believe.

What were the books that affected you?

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  1. Why does ASS keep popping up everywhere? Anyway, my children loved Goodnight Moon. I don’t understand the appeal, but they couldn’t get enough. My son loved Are You My Mother by Dr. Seuss. My favorite childhood book of all time was Sneeches by Dr. Seuss. I even searched the internet to find a copy for my children. It’s about star belly sneeches and plain belly sneeches and which are better. It teaches a valuable lesson about how even though we may look different no group of sneeches (people) are better than another group. Dr. Seuss said it much better. (And he had a star off and star on machine!!!)

  2. Love it that your boys like to be read to. Mine did until they reached that horrible age of around ten. Then it was all I can do it myself. Enjoy those days. I rememberlearning to read with my grandfather and I can still hear the first words I can remember him reading “Go and catch a falling star. I have loved John Donne from that day. Now I read to my grandchildren, except when they read to me.

    • jennifer121 says:

      Janet, I can still remember my grandfather reading me a stack of books, slowly, with no rush to go anywhere else. One of my favorite all time memories. I love your story – so very special.

  3. Great post! My son loves the book Runaway Bunny and also I Love You Through and Through. Unfortunately he’s still at the age (18 months) where he rips books that have paper pages, so I can’t show him books that aren’t board books, since he loves turning pages, lol

    • jennifer121 says:

      I remember those days! Hard cover and bath books were all that were safe. But they graduate fast. I never read I Love You Through and Through – thanks for the tip!

  4. So happy they’re readers! Bodes well for the future!

    Good Night, Moon features in my paranormal WIP. If it ever gets published, I’ll probably have to take it out. But it’s a kind of poignant scene right now so I really don’t want to.

  5. Brilliant. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Brilliant.


  6. Yolanda says:

    I LOVE Go Dog Go. My favorite baby shower gifts are giving books since most people don’t think of it and while it’s imporant to have clothing, ideally it’ll help foster reading.

  7. Regina Richards says:

    My children loved Milk and Cookies and I can still recite whole sections of Toad on the Road. My kids never cared much for Dr. Seus but they endured many readings of the doc because I love him! The book my kids always begged me not to read (and I would anyway) is I’ll Love You Forever. I still can’t get more than two pages into that one before I start blubbering like a giant cry baby.

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