Since toddlerhood, the naptime/bedtime routine in our house has included reading a book (or two) to unwind before the lights go out and the eyes close. I guess I am trying to make my kids passionate about reading as well, and I think, hope, and pray that it's catching on.
I don't know if it's the fact that I'm a mother now, or that I was just dense when I was little, or maybe both, but I am suddenly aware of how depressing so many children's books are.
I remember in fifth grade, we paired up with a kindergarten kid to read them books over the course of the year. It was one of the highlights of fifth grade for me, getting to choose and share books with a captive audience. At the end of the program, the teacher (who had been my second grade teacher, and moved to kindergarten after I had her) read to us all the book entitled Love You Forever. As she read, she got choked up a little bit to start with, and by the time she finished, she was wiping full-fledged tears from her eyes. I have to admit, as a ten year old girl, it didn't evoke the same emotion. I remember thinking, "Wow, Mrs. Smith sure cries easily."
Fast forward to now.
I read that book to my "baby" boy a few years ago and it was all I could do to finish reading it aloud. The poor kid probably thought there was something physically wrong with me, I was practically sobbing. I can only imagine what he was thinking. (Something along the lines of "Mommy's crazy", no doubt.)
I've checked out a good many books that I never read but always wanted to, or have always heard all the buzz about. The Giving Tree is an example. While it didn't make me cry, it did make me sad. And maybe even a little bit angry. How come no one warned me about this? Why do people like this book? The tree gives and gives and the ungrateful little boy takes and takes. And NEVER even utters a thank you. Maybe the tree doesn't deserve a thank you...as the tree created the monster in the first place. Hmm?
Having Googled "Best Children's Books", I decided to check out a book called Someday. After reading it, it was reminiscent of Love You Forever, but it hit home even harder for me. It's about a mother, who starts out counting her baby girl's sweet little toes one by one, wishes her well as she grows up, goes off from home, starts a family of her own, and ultimately suggests that this little girl will end up on a porch, her own gray hair shining in the sun, remembering her mother only in her memory. DEPRESSING. Denial works better for me. I am never going to get old. And I will always be there for my kids. And they will never be old either. I'm going to keep them pint-sized for life. (You can see how well that's working out, as I wished my "baby" boy a Happy 6th Birthday this weekend!)
And then there is Dr. Seuss. I can and have written entire blogs about this man and his books before. I admit to knowing that his books are full of rhetoric clearly intended for adult audiences. It's kind of like the literary version of Shrek. Kids enjoy reading the books, but there's a whole other realm of depth to them that only an adult would understand. I think the entire works of Dr. Seuss should be required reading for life. Read Oh, The Places You'll Go! as an elementary school student, as a high school student, and as an adult. Guarantee you'll get something different out of it every single time.
I'm not sure that I would feel so deeply about these books if I weren't a mother. Kind of like I might not have cried so unbelievably hard at the Passion of the Christ if I hadn't just birthed my own son prior to seeing it. (But seriously, the scene with Mary following Jesus across town. I couldn't take it!) I also probably wouldn't be reading all of these books again or for the first time if I weren't a mother, so there's that.
At any rate, I won't stop reading. I guess depression is a nice contrast to the warm fuzzies. If you didn't hit a figurative low every now and again to make you realize how great your highs are, you'd be one boring plateau.
As always, feel free to recommend children's books to me! Thanks for reading this blog and don't forget...read to your kids!
“I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
- Groucho Marx