Growing up, one of my earliest memories was sitting on the couch with my mom in our tiny duplex while she read to me. She was a single mom, working full time at a university library, and by the time she got home she was exhausted. Nevertheless, every night, without fail she would start working through the big stack of children’s books she had brought home that day. As she would read, she would begin to doze, and I remember waking her up by squealing, “REEEEAAAD MAMA! REEEAAAD!” No matter how tired she was, no matter how early she had gotten up, no matter how long she had been on her feet working, she would always, always read to me. It was our ritual. She would read, begin to doze, I would wake her, and she would read some more. This was our time, and it was sacred.
When I would visit Daddy, often our bonding times centered around books. When I wasn’t able to be with him, he sent me cassette tapes of himself reading books to me. Some of my favorite books were on those tapes: Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Meyer, The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellog. I can still hear his voice reading those books in my mind whenever I see the words on the page. When I got older, he read me The Hobbit and Little House on the Prairie. When I was still a little older he and my Stepmom gave me A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
For me, books were a central part of my childhood. This is why, every night, Gabi and I cuddle together in her bed to read.
Story time is my favorite time of day. It’s often just Gabi and I (I send Juan to play with Katie in another room), and we snuggle up to whichever book Gabi chooses for the evening. I love the smell of her freshly washed hair and the cool of her clean cheek resting on my shoulder as we read. I love bringing the story to life for her with my voice, trying to help her feel the words as I do. Sometimes, if I am reading an old favorite, I try to make my voice sound the way my mom and dad’s voices sounded when they read the story to me. I love engaging her imagination as we talk about the story afterwards. “What was your favorite part?” “If you were [a character from the story] what would you do?”
Her favorite books are not always my favorite books, but the ones we find ourselves reading the most are The Town Musicians of Bremen illustrated by Volker Ernsting (the illustrations are hillarious), Verdi by Janell Cannon, Tuesday by David Wiesner, and now we’ve started reading The Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne.
Reading is such an incredible chance to bond with our children. It’s the one time when they are absolutely still, completely captivated as the story unfolds on the page and in their imagination.
What are your favorite books to read with your children? Do you have memories of being read to when you were little?