I was never a reader growing up, but I always loved books.
I saved all of my Little Golden Books. I collected old books, especially children's picture books and encyclopedias. I even kept the first books I actually read, The Exorcist, Drifting Home, and Jaws.
But when I became a mommy the page turned and reading books became my passion. I loved creating voices, doing accents, and watching my wide-eyed babies reach for illustrations. Reading felt natural and right, for awhile.
By pre-k, spontaneous reading sessions became the norm. I say spontaneous because I was either distracted by my writing or in the middle of a do-it-yourself home project. Eventually, my girls learned shoving a book in mommy's face was the only way to get the attention they craved. Yes, I felt guilty.
Once my youngest hit first grade, I stopped the lap-time reads figuring they should be reading on their own. The new family time was spent watching TV and playing board games with daddy.
A few years later sadness hit our home.
My oldest, Sarrie, was shunned by her entire 5th grade class, dunno why. Her sister, Caroline, was down because even though she was a genius, her dyslexia made her feel dumb. There were a lot of tears and sobbing.
I was frustrated. I couldn't force kids to play with Sarrie, and I had no magic to help Caroline read books past kindergarten site-word books, but I knew what might help ease the sadness.
I went to the bookstore and brought a pile of books. The store clerk recommended them all because I had no idea what young people were reading.
When the school bus pulled up that afternoon, I picked up a book based purely on its appealing cover. I grabbed a box of tissues and waited on the couch, watching Sarrie's stoic expression fall apart as the bus pulled away. Caroline hugged her.
I called them over, dried their tears and told them this was their time, their place, their space... to feel safe and loved.
"Forget everything, right now we have each other and this book. Snuggle up, I'll read it to you."
Honestly, replace the word "Forget" with a more powerful word. Sorry, but sometimes a more powerful word is appropriate when it feels like the forces of nature are against you and you kids.
The book was Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. And wow... magic. As soon as I started reading, the tears stopped.
The reading sessions gave the girls something to look forward to after a long day of snickers and self-loathing.
Home became Sarrie's refuge. Stargirl gave her confidence and hope. Caroline, finally able to enjoy a story at her intellectual level, made her feel smart. Readings turned into discussions where the three of us would ponder the deeper philosophical aspects of the story.
My girls were blowing me away with their empathy and understanding.
Since then I've read them every Jerry Spinelli book and beyond, and they still love to be read to as teenagers. It's our special thing. Reading to them has opened up conversation, imaginations and we have a sense of tribe. I like that.
This season give something that can't be bought. Bring the family together with a book and a big comfy couch.
Our favorites no order:
Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli
Because of Winn Dixie- Kate DiCamello
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West- Gregory Mcguire
Lord of the Flies- William Golding
The Talisman- Stephen King