By: Sandy Churchill
“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”–Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
At our house, it is nearly impossible to be objective and unbiased when it comes to reading. We are all hooked, pure and simple. There are bookcases, literally in almost every room of the house. That said, I am convinced it is a financial vice worth having. Books can show you new worlds and broaden your perspectives, spur empathy, and provide escape. As Kathleen Kelly states in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, a book becomes a part of your identity.
This is not to overlook the gift of libraries, a true treasure in our family. But there is something special about owning books as well. Even toddlers can appreciate the tangible clutching of a favorite storybook to be pulled from the shelf and read aloud again and again, often until it is committed to memory.
With Christmas and Hannukah, and other winter holidays just past, don’t feel like you have to wait a whole year to gift books. From birth, each of our children was gifted with books at birthdays, Christmas, Easter, and other special occasions, so that each one acquired a gradual library over the years. In addition to the wonder of reading together when they were small, each developed interests in various genres and favorite authors, expanded their vocabulary, explored other worlds, and flourished in their love of learning.
Like costumes at Halloween, favorite story characters help us “try on” personality traits, behaviors, and dialogue. We may identify with the kindred spirits in the Anne of Green Gables novels or villainize a cruel bully in Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Wonder. We have the chance to empathize with May in The Secret Life of Bees, laugh along with Ramona and Beezus, spend time on the prairie with the Little House series, or cheer on Charlie as he navigates the Chocolate Factory.
As busy parents, audio books became a great way to share stories in the car or squirrel away precious “reading” time while doing dishes, folding laundry, or switching gears at bedtime. For me, a gift of a favorite mystery or engaging dramatic novel is not only a welcome reminder to stop and savor some relaxation, but a cozy gift of time to escape into the wonders of a good story.
Whether you are delving into the antics of the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald, the timeless adventures of Dr. Seuss, the amazing quests of The 39 Clues, or the fantasy journeys of Brandon Mull, the choices are endless. And while your child is embarking on a flight of the imagination, he or she might just discover another clue on a future skill, career, or hobby. For toddlers to nonagenarians, reading helps us discover who we are meant to be.