Written by Shelley Plett Wednesday, 27 February 2008 07:38“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” —Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves,” New York Times, Aug. 7, 1991
My heart goes heavy when I hear my kids cry, whatever the cause might be. But as children grow in height marked on the door frame and in depth marked by emotions, the reasons for their meltdowns become denser, less obvious.
Crying, outbursts, tantrums. All staples in a house with kids under 12. Probably over 12 too, that’s for me to find out. But so far, it’s been very clear why these things were happening. They don’t want to go bed? Tantrum. They don’t want to get up? Fit. They don’t want to share their toys? Screaming. They don’t want to eat? Another tantrum.
Obvious. Annoying, but obvious.
The cries of a 3-year-old are much different than the cries of a 9-year-old, and I’m not sure which is more difficult to handle.
In the midst of awakening to the knowledge that growing girls are simply girls and they can be emotional, I’m trying to prepare for all that drama. But I wasn’t expecting the reaction I saw when my oldest daughter told me with a sad face, book in hand, marked halfway with her hand, and said, “I cried a little.”
She went on to explain the book she was reading, about a dog that was abandoned (out of a car window) when he was a puppy and the trouble that came his way from that day on. It was the first book she had read that sparked a real emotional reaction.
I caught the spark in her eye as she told me about the friendships the dog made, the breaks and abuse he endured. She had been there with him, felt his broken hip, his hunger and his hopelessness. She had gotten lost in his life, in his story, in that book. And I got lost in her excitement.
Full of pride, I immediately made a list of other books for her to put on her reading list. I don’t know if she’ll get to them all, but she’ll never run out of options. The reps of “Cow Moo Me” and “Go Dog Go” have paid off—I’m raising a reader.
Hopefully, I can make that two. It’s looking promising since my little one has kicked her teddy bear out of the bed to make room for her books to “sleep.”
(She’s also been known to sleep with guitar picks and plastic grapes and with socks on her hands, so I’m trying not to see too much in that yet.)
It might start with spotting the little mouse on each page of “Good Night Moon” and lead to processing the unthinkable in the Holocaust memoir “Night.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a board book or a hard-back novel, traveling page by page through a good book is a journey with a perpetual ending.
“All good books,” wrote Ernest Hemingway, “are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterward it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”
Reading unfolds not just large and unimaginable worlds, but the intricacies, the smallest details of the individual characters that exist in them.
Actually, maybe Dr. Seuss, as usual, combined the right words: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”