“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” ~Author Unknown
A Friendship with Books
I can’t remember my life without books, but this much I do know: my love for reading started young. My parents often told me they could hear me turning pages in the dark as I sat in my crib as a baby.
As for actually learning to read, I don’t remember a process. One day, it seemed, it just … happened. I was reading.
Back when Hawaii was still a U.S. territory and Thailand was called Siam, I would curl up on my bed to learn about Wilhelmina of Holland, Kala of Hawaii, Ching Ling and Ting Ling of China, and other Children of Foreign Lands.
Mother Goose was a dear companion, and I read my book of nursery rhymes till it fell apart. But my earliest reading memory finds me sitting on my bedroom floor in the company of Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats, with its red and yellow cover, hand-lettered text, folk-art illustrations, and familiar refrain:
To this day, it remains my very favorite picture book.
That was merely the beginning. From there, I solved mysteries with The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, enjoyed the innocent charms of small-town childhood with Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy, and ventured into the world of trolls and princesses in The Blue Fairy Book.
Always eager to re-read old favorites, I fairly wore out my copies of Heidi, Caddie Woodlawn, Charlotte’s Web, and Black Beauty. My open-minded (but non-religious) parents even bought me a Children’s Bible, my first introduction to Jesus, with his kind eyes and flowing blue robe.
Passing the Torch
Reading was a huge part of our homeschooling, too. My girls followed immediately in my footsteps, becoming voracious readers early on. Spurred on by our unit studies, we would check out dozens of library books at a time. I loved introducing them to many of my old friends, even as together we discovered a wealth of books I’d never read before.
Books have never been far from my children’s reach! Our son, a late bloomer, began to enjoy reading upon discovering Nate the Great. Eventually, he came to count The Great Brain and Chronicles of Narnia series among his own favorites.
One of my fondest memories is of my middle daughter perched high in the branches of our white alder, engrossed in Little Women.
And when our eldest suffered a serious leg fracture at age 11—and middle-of-the-night pain woke her in tears—her daddy would read The Call of the Wild to her on her makeshift bed downstairs till she would once again drift off to sleep.
I’m so glad their early reading roots pushed deep into the fertile soil of excellent children’s literature. Today, their adult reading tastes vary widely from classical to contemporary, but readers they remain. It’s fun to watch my grandchildren enjoying that fruit, too.
As Charles W. Eliot once wrote:
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
This week marks Children’s Book Week. I hope you’ll take time in your homes to celebrate by reading favorite children’s books—together and individually, and this list of the Top 100 Children’s Picture Books of All Time a great place to start!
Share a childhood memory about books and reading. Or, list a few of your own favorite children’s books!
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