Our local library was asking for book donations. My wife and I approached Sebastian (our ten-year-old) with the idea of offering up some of his large library, and he said it sounded great.
It’s philanthropic, I told him, and then explained what that meant.
I accompanied him to his bookshelf to get ten or so books for delivery later that day.
“How about ‘Harry Potter’?” I asked as a starting point.
The look on his face was one of utter shock. “Are you kidding!” he exclaimed in true disbelief, “I would never even let someone borrow these.” He clutched the book to his chest, a look of horror spreading over his features.
We’d read the first book together at night over the course of a summer. As I looked at “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” memories of his young eyes peeking up at me from underneath the covers came rushing back.
He’d read the rest of the series on his own.
“Okay, okay,” I said, smiling a little, secretly glad that he showed such attachment to books (of any kind).
“How about ‘The Hunger Ga-‘”
He didn’t even let me finish before he tore Collins’s trilogy from my hands and set it next to “Harry Potter” under his bed. “Why would I give that away?” he asked. “I’ve read that series three times!”
“Will you read it again?” I asked.
“Of course!” he shouted, his face flushed with emotion.
I’d started reading book one of “The Hunger Games” series to him one night, telling him that after we were done we could watch the movie. I’d read chapter one.
He’d read the rest on his own in a couple of nights.
“Why didn’t you wait for me?” I’d asked after I’d found out he was secretly reading without me and had finished the book.
I was angry. I’d wanted to see his reaction when Katniss puts an arrow through the apple in the pig’s mouth, I’d wanted to be there for him after Rue’s death, I’d wanted to see the look of fear in his eyes when the killer fog rolled in, and I’d wanted to cheer with him when the Nightlock came out.
“I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next,” Sebastian said.
I realize now that books have become a deep connecting point with my kids – a place of kindred escape; a place where we can show vulnerability, frustration, and joy; a place where we can converse about hopes, dreams, fears, and possibilities; a place where we can escape the noise and confusion of the everyday.
In a world of early mornings, overbooked calendars, buzzing cell phones, and relentless emails, it’s comforting to know that books are there for us as a vital respite – one that we all deserve and need.
I know that one of my most important jobs as a parent has been to make a place for reading (and writing) in our home, to show that carefully crafted words are worthy of our effort and time. I want to show my kids that it’s okay to sit still, to use your imagination, to travel to unknown lands in your head, and to learn.
I mean, where would I be without Charlotte and her web, or without the BFG? Without Max and his Wild Things? Where would I be without Little Anne, Big Dan, and the wondrous land of Teribithia? Without Charlie and his Chocolate Factory? Without the generosity of the Giving Tree? Without Ron, Hermione, and Harry, of course?
Where would we be?
So I sit on the couch with an open book. I sit between three kids and three screens. I sit and they see me laugh, cry, and shout at my book. They see me quiet, still, and engaged for minutes and sometimes hours. Then they put down their screens and ask what I’m reading. They ask if they can get their own books.
Most importantly, though, I take time to read to them and with them. Every kid. Every night. No matter what. So they grow with every word, every chapter, and every book.
It’s a wonderful world, the ones that books create. A world worthy of exploration.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
This article was previously published on mamalode.com