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For the Love of Books

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Story Time.
Those two short words always meant wonder for me.
I loved story time the most.
My mom said our story time began after her weekly grocery shopping trip.  There she would let me select one Golden Book and we would read it all week.  She kept a tiny toddler library in a lower kitchen cabinet.  While she cooked I rested on the kitchen floor and thumbed through the Golden Books.  
Later there were longer classics like Johanna Spyri's Heidi or Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.  
Hours slid by as she flipped childhood biographies page after page drawing the timeline of history. 
At school I loved the first ten minutes spent listening to the teachers' words nail down the protagonist, antagonist, and the climax of a good story. I loved the details included. If a story was filled with descriptive language all the better.   
My mom took us frequently to the library filling up our arms with books of all kinds. 
I still remember much of the books I had to read in school.  I looked forward to looking at a syllabus and seeing what we had to read. 
I remember the first day I brought my Meredith home.  She was a mere one week old and I had no clue of what to do with a baby.  So while my husband slept the afternoon away I decided I would read to this tiny newborn.  I did.  We started off with a Max Lucado treasury and I felt some fleeting moments of certainty in that season of new parent paralysis. In fact because I was so nervous about being a mother I found reading books to my baby cathartic and really an anchor for me.  This I knew.  Perhaps this snoozing baby in the curve of my arm couldn't discern a story line, but my voice told the story and I felt calm.  So much time was spent reading to my oldest girl on my days off of work that by the time she was three we had read Little Women together and she pleasantly asked myriads of questions and made her own observations.  
It's so funny to think now.  My current three year old would never let me do that.
I don't have all of that uninterrupted time to give everyone.
I still try just usually with competing noise and general controlled chaos. 

.I was asked recently what my favorite children's books were.  The ones I remember long after the binding snapped shut and the book was shelved

My favorite books I was read as a child include The Beatrix Potter Story Books, Ginger Pye, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Little House Series, the endless archaic series of American biographies my mom spent most of my first and second grade year reading to me, and The Bronze Bow. And most of all the Golden Books my mom purchased for change back then still fill her shelves.  I watch my girls pick those thirty year old books out now and flip through them.
I think the Eloise Wilkins Golden Books remind me most of being a child because my mom particularly liked those and we had may of them. All of the stories sweet and focused on family relationships or filled with poems and prayers.  The drawings of the children mirroring cherubs with rosy cheeks and tiny bite sized noses.  They were simply innocent and sweet.






My little girls' favorites include We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen), Fancy Nancy, Dr. Suess, Nancy Drew, Lady Bug Girl, The American Girl Series.  (It's quite obvious its a mostly girl house), The Max Lucado story books, Kevin Henke books like Chrysanthemum, All of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Collection, and the list could go on indefinitely.







My personal favorite is Gyo Fujikawa.  The illustrations are beautiful.  I loved flipping through the board books with the girls as babies.  



We also enjoy all sorts of educational books, books on animals, nature, artists, musicians, and even cookbooks.  My girls like to thumb through cook books and debate over the bakery they want to open every other week.




A few weeks ago to pass a summer afternoon I passed out Southern Living magazines to all three girls and we found ourselves in some really interesting conversations.
"Look at these cupcakes! Can we make them?"
"Look at these huge trees?" An article on the Live Oaks of the South sparked.
The most intriguing article was on the live mermaid shows held at a special theatre in Florida.
It was simple.  Just three young girls and their mama looking at some old magazines and discussing all sorts of topics.  I smiled seeing the future a bit and what I might have to look forward to.

Libraries are a sacred place for me.  When things get tough or life seems unfamiliar or startling I usually find myself back in a book store sitting on the floor reading books to my kids or in the library doing the same.  It's like walking back into time and taking my kids with me and it feels safe, innocent, and sure. 
If I'm anxious or trying to steady a shaky mind I usually do the physical act of picking up a book and forcing my mind to concentrate.  
I believe that reading books to your kids and reading books in front of your kids increases their capacity and desire to keep learning about so many things.  Letting little fingers flip through so many pages about so many topics, people, and ideas.  Showing them gentle peeks into different things that comprise our world. Even if it is just looking at an atlas and talking about so many different places we could go and why we would want to.  
People recommend different things...read twenty minutes a day, or read this book or that....
You have to find what your kids like and what you yourself will enjoy listening to and retelling again and again. 
It needs to be worthy of the time. If we start a book that no one is into we simply shut it.  No sense wasting time.  
I used to take my girls once a week to purchase a book of their choice to reread over and give a sense of ownership.  Sometimes I cringed at the pick, but it was their decision.
Oftentimes we find a book unrelated to anything capturing our attention like architectural picture books or something about constellations or different cultures.  

Have a favorite book? ( I can't ever nail that down) I have so many I like...but I have a handful that stand out. Of course at any given time I have a running list of any I would recommend.
My favorite books to read for myself are personal memoirs.  Real life stories birthed in the thick of real life told with guts and vidid detail.  Vulnerable and inspiring. 

What's a book that really spoke to you and left you different?  Don't be afraid to try different ones.  Different genres. At the moment I'm reading some business and entrepreneurial themed books and I have enjoyed those as well. Even one on organization (not my thing) but it is peppered with stories so it is doable for me.  I usually can't stomach a romance novel.  But I do like Charles Martin. I've found some beautiful words and perspective in some very old books that hid on the shelves of the church library over the years by people of other centuries long gone.  I remember the first time I discovered Catherine Marshalls's spiritual books or read some Hannah Whitehall Smith.  Very rich. 
And we need humor.  Jen Hatmaker is so good for that!  

What book reminds you of being little and curled up tight to your parents listening to the cadence of their voice? 
For me it's hearing my mom's North Carolina flavored voice narrate adventures on Pike's Peak, Kit Carson, Molly Pitcher, and George Washington Carver, Julia Ward Howe, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Helen Keller, Stephen Decatur and it left me with the lasting feeling that I was thankful. Thankful to be an American.

It was my dad with all of his coffee table books about every national park and how one day we might be able to see Yosemite and maybe venture to Glacier.  Even though we didn't we dreamed with him.

Some books I have really enjoyed this year...














And sometimes books and their shelves have other uses, like housing Lamby and other treasured dolls :) 


Comments

  1. I loved Little House books growing up. Really, any book. I would spend hours in my room or outside in the treehouse reading. I had to read the Island of the Blue Dolphins for a school report. Now days I am not nearly attracted to fiction as I am nonfiction, but when I read to my kids I do take after my mom and bust out the funny voices for the characters. THAT part I love about fiction because I feel like I can jump into the story. Thanks for sharing all of these today, what a delight!

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  2. Somer,
    We are so alike -- the library is the place I look forward to when I feel stressed. I plan a Saturday and spend all day there, leaving with a stack of books and I feel excited about life again, knowing those books are waiting for me! I had all those Golden Books too as a little girl that you read (I loved the one about the little girl who got her tonsils out when I had mine out!) and I just bought my niece Ginger Pye, which she loved! You are giving your girls such a gift, reading to them and teaching them to appreciate books. What a great idea to sit with your girls and thumb through Southern Living and talk about all you discover on the pages -- brilliant! You are a beautiful mother, Somer! xoxo much love to you!

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