Posted on May 12, 2015 at 6:00 am
Having just celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’ve been thinking about all the ways my mom has influenced my life and shaped who I am today. Even now in my late 20s, I still find I need her advice and support on a regular basis. I think moms have a special gift that way. While my mom has taught me many valuable lessons over the years, one of the most profound things she taught me as a child was to develop a love and appreciation for the written word.
While my mom made it a point to read bedtime stories to us from the time we were babies, Laura Ingalls’ Little House books were my first real introduction to the power of reading as a young child. When I was a preschooler, my mom started reading the series to me while my baby brother took his afternoon nap. We started with Little House on the Prairie, only to find out halfway through that we should have started with Little House in the Big Woods. Undeterred, we finished Little House on the Prairie, and then went back to read Little House in the Big Woods before continuing the series.
I recently asked my mom why reading aloud to us and encouraging us to read on our own was so important to her while my siblings and I were growing up. Thanks to her own education and community resources like our local library, she understood and valued the positive impact reading has on a child’s development and success in school. Being read to at home fostered a love for reading that carried over into the classroom when I started school.
Reading was also a way for my mom to introduce imagination and playtime into our daily activities. Together, books transported us to worlds otherwise outside our reach. My siblings and I still recall what a grueling experience it was reading The Long Winter. With every chapter, feelings of bitter cold and hunger always seemed to settle upon us. I think they must have been sympathy pains for Laura and her siblings.
In elementary school during recess, I would often take the classroom library pass and spend my time perusing the school library for a new book about pioneer life or the Civil War. I still remember how the library pass smelled like chocolate graham crackers and how excited I felt the day I earned the privilege to checkout four books at a time (to a second-grader that was a pretty big deal).
Both the school library and my local public library were places I frequented as often as I could. My favorite part of the school day in first and second grade was when my teacher would read to us. I remember Ms. Rainier capturing my attention with many of Roald Dahl’s imaginative masterpieces, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. I was always more interested in historical fiction but appreciated being exposed to books I would have never chosen to read myself.
Every summer I waited with eager anticipation for the summer programs to be announced at the local library and to get my reading log to track my progress. I was the kind of kid who actually missed going to school during the summer (weird, I know), but summer’s saving grace was that it gave me more time to read. My little-bitty-book-light and I were besties. The number of late nights I spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries are too numerous to count. By the time I was in middle school, I was devouring literary classics like Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind, and Rebecca with rapid speed.
Whether it’s their mom, caretaker, or librarian, kids remember the people who take the time to read to them. Reading together is a meaningful experience that teaches a child to explore realms beyond their own. The reading habits my mom helped cultivate in me as young girl have influenced all areas of my life. While I’m not yet a mom myself, I look forward to the day when I have little ones who I can take to the library and read stories to before I tuck them in at night. I hope I can teach them to appreciate the power of reading the same way my mom taught me.