For the Love of Books

Valentine Davies writes in the book, Miracle on 34th Street:

‘Do you know what the imagination is, Susan?’ The child nodded sagely. ‘That’s when you see things that aren’t really there.’

“’Well, not exactly,’ said Kris with a smile. ‘No — to me the imagination is a place all by itself. A very wonderful country. You’ve heard of the British Nation and the French Nation?’ Susan nodded again. ‘Well, this is the Imagination. And once you get there you can do almost anything you want.’

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith writes:

‘What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?’

“’The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.’

For the love of books, bore the brains out of your children

Rows of books
Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

In our goals of giving our children the best of what we had in our past, with the guardrails of what our generation learned, my husband and I seek to create something of a boring atmosphere for our children. Our one television stands in our bedroom moved out to the living room and positioned on the 1×12 inch board we place across the school desks for family movie nights. There are audiobooks only occasionally, usually when we travel. The movie habits were limited to selected films until the Magnolia network came on the scene and our viewing admittedly expanded on Saturdays and Sundays to include more run-on, what’s next, style viewing, a habit I once avoided better than now.

We have an outdoor space where they can run, dig and explore.

We have multiple kids so the child who wants to be alone can escape and there is always someone else to play with.

And we have books. That wonderful world of books.

My father and I stood in the remodeled barn looking at the 12 foot long, doubled-sided bookcase. He showed my antique books in Greek, in German, the History of the World, my mother’s textbooks, his old comic books. Those books, he collected and loved the books he collected. They were prized possessions even if I never saw him reading them.

The man took me to Borders and Barnes and Noble, but we loved Yesterday’s Books best. He drove me to poetry readings and gifted me an ancient computer before the days of the world wide web on which to type out the stories in my mind.

All my days in the house I remember shelves full of books: “Come to the Meadow,” signed by the author, Anne Grossnickle Himes and addressed to my sister; The Living Bible; The Saddle Club books. Eventually, these gave way to Austen, Bronte and Dickens.

My poor husband carted boxes and boxes of books from this side of the country to the other, and back again. Each week I go the library to pick up or drop off. Once a month I lumber out the exit with sixty books in my bag, blessing my children with the new month’s theme.

My husband reads one book, The Lord of the Rings, but he reads it over and over again, perennially, if you will. I keep a mental list of the “classics,” the books that influenced and shaped the culture, the books that more than a few people thought worth reading two hundred years later. I think there must be something to that.

We are readers. We are book bugs.

If we spend too much time in the digital world, it is noticeably harder to focus on print. So we make an effort and it pays off. Because the world of books, the world of literature, is a rich world, a bold world, a world worth visiting regularly.

During Lent, we instituted Reading Nights in place of Friday movies nights. We lit the fire, popped popcorn, pour tea, and sat quietly while we read individually, alone together. And it was beautiful.

Books were my companions in lonely childhood, they were my respite during times of crisis, they were my avenue to intellectual growth in the doldrums of motherhood, and I hope and pray, that I can pass that comfort onto my children, so that no matter where they may be, whatever they may endure, they will know there is a bit of rest, of joy, of escape in a book.

Child reading
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.