on the bookshelf – the joy of reading

December 17th, 2008

I’d forgotten until last night one of the primary reasons I had kids – to share my favorite books. Sure, there were many other reasons, but I’d been looking forward to building traditions around books like we’d had growing up. Yeah, yeah – I’m bookish. To this day, Christmas involves reading (and crying through) The Gift of the Magii, The Littlest Angel, and A Christmas Carol. (Okay, I watch the last one; my daddy reads it.) We read How the Grinch Stole Christmas throughout the year. Now that Will is 4, he is the right age to enjoy The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

I have fond memories of my dad reading me all but the Pageant – that one was a favorite of my mother. If you mention the Herdmans standing around fires they’d set so they could eat the firemen’s donuts, you can bring tears of laughter to my mom’s eyes. Dad used to read The Grinch in funny character voices which I hated. Bring a copy of the Littlest Angel out at a family function and the entire room would well up in tears. It is this emotional attachment to words and stories that I wanted to share with my kids. This is why part of my pregnant nesting involved sorting our books into stages – the explorational stream of consciousness Faulkner for newborns, dark and clangy Poe for the sleepless infant nights, sing-songy ee cummings and William Carlos Williams for those pre-verbal infant months, Dr Seuss’s good stuff for the language acquisition year, filler for the years between, the heady poetry of Anne Sexton for those dramatic 5s, … Probably more than I wished my children old enough to walk, I wished them old enough to enjoy reading.

So, here we are. Will has anxiously consumed most of Roald Dahl’s books. We began one of my favorites – Pippi Longstocking – last night. He kept interrupting me to inquire – “Can she really pick up a horse? Could she pick up our car? Could she pick up our house?” or to comment that she is really a messy cook and I wouldn’t like her in my kitchen.

Yes, this is why I had kids. The fact that they also do dishes is just icing.