Why I Love Books…

My mother knows all the words to the Cat and the Hat. Why? She used to read it to my older brother and I at least twice a week before bedtime. I’m in my mid twenties.My brother is thirty and I don’t think my mother had read that story aloud in fifteen years but if I ask her she can still recite the entire thing.

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
Bedtime stories were a ritual in the Pope house when it was just my big brother and I. We used to share a room and every night my mother would come in, pick a book off our jam-packed shelf and read to us. My father never did but he would sneak in and sit by the door, listening to my mother as she read. Sometimes he would grab the video camera and record us, focusing on our fascinated reactions as she told a story. Recently, when my father began the process of putting all those tapes on DVD we stumbled upon my mother’s retelling on the Cat in the Hat. At first I had to laugh at my mother’s very eighties Jheri curl and marvel that the woman on the screen had the same exact face as I do. But When she started reading and I who couldn’t have been more than two years old at the time started clapping my chubby little hands. The grown up me and kid me merged in that moment and I was transported back to 1987 when we still lived in that two bedroom apartment in the Bronx, when my mother used to take us to the zoo on Wednesdays and my father used to go to work dressed in his dark blue police officer’s uniform.

My mother used to take us to the library often back then and let us sit  in the children’s section for hours and take out as many books as they would allow. I remember that place vividly with the elephant statues out front and the slightly moldly smelling basement that housed the kids books. Later when we moved upstate the first place our mother took us was the local library. It was much smaller than the one in the city and resembled one of those stone cottages one might see in England. They were having a sale the first time we went and it was the first and only time I have ever heard my mother say buy anything you want. (I still have most of those books from that day).

When I hit middle school and became more preoccupied with boys than books my mother handed me a beat up copy of Chances by Jackie Collins. “I remembered liking this when I was a teenager,” she said as she handed me a book with more sex and violence than a thirteen year old should read.

When I was in high school. My mother bought  The Mulberry Tree by Jude Deveraux and Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Cruise and left them lying around the house. Which I read ,devoured and looked for more of those things called romance novels.

My father would always buy me books and once waited in line to get me the third Harry Potter the day it came out. Another time he drove to three books stores to get me a book that all my friends were reading. Thinking back I realize what good parents I have and about how they never forced reading upon me. Books were just a natural part of our lives, always around the house, always available if we should want one. At this point I have read thousands and each book brings up a memory of a certain time in my life.

What about you? Why do you love books? Did you read to your kids? Did your parents read to you? Have any fond memories of your local library? Does a certain book bring up a memory?


11 thoughts on “Why I Love Books…”

  1. Hi Jamie, no wonder you love to write, you also love to read. For me, 2 books that i devoured and remembered when I was eight. Heidi, and Alice in Wonderland. Now that I’m writing, I am reading more than ever. Good post.

  2. I agree about the importance of reading to your kids and exposing them to books–even in utero. I read to my kids every night from the time they were babies. My oldest son loved it. He was that “one more chapter…pleeeeaase!” kind of kid. To this day, he loves to read and just called me to let me know what he loved–and didn’t love–about my book. He’s thirty and I had sent him an advanced copy of Heaven is for Heroes. He loved my reference to the old VW Rabbit in the story which was actually his first car–although he suggested I should have used an old muscle car instead.

    My younger son is a whole different story. I read to him too, but even as a small child, every time I opened a book, he fell asleep within five minutes. I ended up reading the first three Harry Potter books to a snoring child. He just wasn’t interested. He struggled through school and absolutely HATES reading. Talk about ripping my heart out! Where did I go wrong? It took some real soul searching on my part to accept that some people aren’t readers. He’ twenty three and has agreed to take a copy of my book and promote it to his girlfriend and her friends, their parents, or whoever else he can “sell” it to. He is charming and has a talent for selling, but read a book? Nope! I am saddened by this because I think about all the wonderful stories he will miss out on in life, but I’ve accepted that some people aren’t readers no matter who their parents are.

  3. My great uncle Harry was like a father to me as a child, even though he was 70 years older than me. 🙂 From the time I learned to read, he gave me a new book every time he saw me, at least once a week. I still have most of them, children’s classics like Little Women (one of my all time favorites), Swiss Family Robinson, Black Beauty, and Heidi, among others. I loved the Nancy Drew books as a kid, and I clearly remember the summer day of 1983 when I was pestering my mom, whining that I had nothing to read. She was sitting in a chair in the backyard getting a little sun, reading a book. I must have been really bugging her (I clearly see how, now that I’m a mom!) ’cause she tossed her book at me and said, “Read this!” It was Lost Lady by Jude Deveraux. I was a romance junky (reading nothing but every historical romance I could find) from that moment until the fall of 1995 when I was backpacking through Europe. No room in the bag for books (and no Kindle invented yet!) so I had to read whatever that night’s youth hostel had on the take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf. I “discovered” lots of other genres, thrillers, classics and the like. I still love to read, but now most of my reading time is spent reading to my own little ones. My 3-year-old twins love Mo Willems Pigeon books (they ‘read’ them to me!) and my 6 year old like Junie B. Jones among others. I’m hoping we graduate to the Magic Tree House books this year!

  4. I absolutely read to my kids. And like Paula’s youngest son, neither of them are big readers. It kills me!! My oldest does read books, but he’s very selective. He’s devoured all of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles. Both of them love to read Manga (so they aren’t a total lost cause).

    And I do love my local library. It’s the same one I went to when I was little. When I was a kid, I used to believe that the library gave me headaches. It took me years to realize, that it wasn’t the library. My mom would often take me on rainy days and what was actually happening – sinus headaches!

  5. I read a lot to my son too, every night before bed from the time he was just a few months old up until about 4th grade, when he would no longer allow me to do so :(. When he was very young, I read The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, and the one about the Pale Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them, about a thousand times apiece. I read to him the entire Series of Unfortunate Events and Spiderwick Chronicles, the first couple of Harry Potters (he quickly realized he preferred the movies because the books just took too long), the Ron Roy A to Z mysteries, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books (I loved those as a kid, and my son loved them too), even some Nancy Drew. I think all that reading truly helped with his language skills, and during elementary school it was never, ever a chore for him to do his reading. Now he does not read as much as he used to, but he does still pick up non-required books. As for me, my mother probably read books to me when I was very young, although I don’t remember it. I know my much-loved aunt, who lived with us for a time, did, because she delights in telling me she never bought the Little Golden Book Chicken Little for her own children, having read it to me so many times she hated it! I was a precocious reader and preferred doing the reading to being read to. Today, though, I “read” about half of my books on audio, so I guess I’ve come full circle.

  6. Wow, thanks for the trip down memory lane. I always read to my kids — way into their teens. It was a ritual to congregate on mom’s bed 20 minutes before bedtime. When the kids were older, we took turns reading. Good times, great memories.

  7. Wow…I must have been out of it when I posted this because I forgot to add tags and had more than one typo but now it’s all fixed. Happy reading!

  8. Every night before bed my Mother read Winnie-the-Pooh to me as a child. I still have to read a book before bed every night. Ok now they tend to be a bit more racy and a lot of romance books! But really it’s just the idea of read every day that I had instilled in my life that i keep as a daily activity. Somehow a day isn’t complete unless I have had aleast half and hour to sit down with a book. Ok sometimes that becomes hours. LOL
    Best Wishes

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