When my daughter was two years old, my father took care of her on Mondays when I saw psychotherapy patients. I remember coming home one time and asking how the day went.
“It’s amazing how tiring it is,” my dad said, “to read all day.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. I was home the other four days of the week, pregnant with our second, and sitting in the nursing rocker and reading story books just about fit my energy level. There were days we read for six or more hours, stopping only to eat (both of us) and nap (also both of us).
Now my daughter is six and no matter where she is, if I start to read, she will stop everything and become transfixed. She’s not a kid who melts down very often, but reading stops her cold when she does. (And when I am in Good Enough Mom mode to use this tactic as opposed to pleading, yelling, and frowning my fool face off.)
She likes everything from THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO to those illustrated story books of her babyhood. Right now we’re reading THE SECRET GARDEN and she is rapt. We’ve gotten up to book six in the LITTLE HOUSE series. Only Laura’s age stopped us–she likes characters she feels akin to. The old Carolyn Haywood series turned out to be pure magic.
Now, because I’m a writer and a voracious reader myself, I might chalk this up to some weird encoded thing and think, Isn’t genetics cool.
But my son is as different a kid as you could hope to see. He loves cars and gadgets and fixing things. He watches the world and notes his observations; my daughter lives in a dream state and narrates it.
But my son adores reading as well. If bedtime is too late for a “tory” he cries. His books differ–they have pictures of vehicles and he would enjoy an airplane manual if I could get my hands on one. But in terms of enjoying the written word, or at his age, I should say, hearing text, he is an ardent fan.
How did this happen? Is it because the kids’ dad and I read all the time? Because books fill our house, threatening to overturn, forming a bulk of what’s in the kids’ rooms? Because I read so much to them?
Is it purely genetics after all? Or environment? Or both?
Then there is the question of how a book loving child will fare in the world he or she inherits.
I hope and pray that my kids will always have books to fill their lives, that their children’s children’s children will. I hope that if this passion grows and evolves and morphs in ways we cannot predict at this point, one thing will remain always needful in our world: a love of story.
I believe that humans need story the same way we need water and breath. It’s why we gossip, and chatter, and rubberneck at the scene of calamity.
But on my more despairing days, I worry that I am passing on a love for a dying beast.
What about you? Are your kids readers? Do you feel you made them so, or is a reader simply born? Either way, do you feel a love of reading to be a good thing in a child?
I hope so. That daughter I started this piece with? When she grows up she wants to be a book seller.