Thursday, March 7, 2013


You would hope that a vitreous detachment, constant knee pain, dry mouth, and stage 4 lung cancer would be enough for one person to deal with.

Nope. I am also an addict. A bookaholic.

I have yet to locate a BA group in our area.

But here's the kicker. My love of book buying is limited to kids' books. I know, my child is 21 and no longer soaking in Franklin, Clifford and The Berenstain Bears. So why am I still buying kids' books?

I will digress. I am probably our library's biggest patron. The librarians know my 9-digit number by heart....never need to carry my card. Whatever book I want, they find it for me, in state or out of state. I read one or two books every week. I never consider purchasing books because once you read them, they collect dust. I have a bookshelf of my all-time favorites....books I own and reread, and I love having those around. But I just generally do not like "stuff" hanging around that I won't use again, so I am a devoted library-borrower.

But when it comes to kiddie books, I am a hopeless case. I think kids need to be read to as much as they need oxygen, sleep and food.                         

I remember being totally fascinated by this information before Sam was born: that exposure to words (both from verbal interaction with adults and being read to), clearly helps a child's brain build the neural connections and synapses that will enable the child to learn words. I learned that when you read to a child, the brain is stimulated, causing new synapses to grow and existing connections to get stronger.The studies I read on brain development in young children confirmed that being read to is a good predictor of better learning aptitude, better formation of critical language and enunciation skills, earlier grasping of abstract concepts, and greater memory retention and attention spans. 

I'm sure I learned all of that in freshman developmental psychology, but until you are ready to give birth to your first child, it doesn't have impact.

Sam's Pop-Pop (my dad) reading to our little book-lover

Well, I was not going to have our child go through life with fewer neural connections than his peers!!! And so, with the library in Duluth downtown and not very accessible, we bought books. And more books. And we read and we read and we read some more. We should have bought stock in Scholastic 21 years ago. Sam loved being read to and loved "reading" to himself. "Wead books, Mama" was daily music to my ears.

Those hours we spent in books every day were sacred, his sweet baby scent intoxicating as he snuggled tight against me rapt with every whimsical word. As he learned to talk, I would ask lots of questions and we would talk about the morals of the stories. I bought lots of books where the characters learned lessons in sharing, forgiveness, humility, integrity, and honesty. We could tell it was all sinking into his little self. His absorption well justified the book purchases, and I knew we were investing in his soul as well as his mind.

As long as he continued to love reading, I was committed to buying. (I figured new stories yielded new synapses and new character lessons!)

And somewhere along the line, I fell just as much in love with children's literature as Sam did. 

A couple weeks ago I was down in the storage room where there are 3 plastic bins and 2 boxes full of kiddie books. Out of curiosity, I counted them. Confession time: I have 274 kiddie books. This doesn't count all the books we got for him the years after kindergarten when he became his own reader. And I'm not sure I counted the ones in my dresser I haven't taken downstairs yet. 

Some of the latest in my collection

Most of our books are still like new.....for as much as we handled them, we were pretty gentle on them. And so again, with what I already have, what would possess me to continue buying kids' books?

1) Because I can. My generous teacher friend Amanda lets me order Scholastic books through her classroom. 

2) Because I love to give books as gifts to little ones. 

3) Because someday I may have a grandchild, and I would have the privilege of giving the gift of a huge library of books! I would always want my house to be a "book haven" for little ones, but Sam would get the lion's share and never need to spend a penny on books!

Sam so happy to get a new book!

Earlier this fall I had visions of sitting around the campfire at the lake, reading classics to these imaginary grandchildren when they would come to stay with us. So I bought 3 of the classics I did not have yet, but love: Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. I was tickled silly to tuck them into my collection. 

Some women can tell you all about designer brands of shoes and clothing. I can tell you about conversations between Wilbur, Templeton, and Charlotte A. Cavatica.

As addictions go, this one doesn't break the bank, destroy relationships with family, or produce shame and condemnation. And I've told myself that when I reach 325, I'm going to stop.

Yeah, I know, drug addicts say the same thing: I'm going to stop.

Well, if I do fall off the wagon, the worst that can really happen is that there will be a few more wonderful copies of The Cat in the Hat, Make Way for Ducklings, Brown Bear Brown Bear, and Blueberries for Sal floating around this world in some silky soft toddler hands, igniting neurons, kindling imaginations, and capturing dreams. 

And I could live with that fall.

My boy was so content to sit in his room and read....
Age 2

You may have tangible wealth untold 
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold 
Richer than I you can never be 
I had a mother who read to me
— Strickland Gillilan

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.
— Walt Disney


Cole said...

I'm with you! I've gotten rid of many of my books but I can't part with any of the children's books. Even the ones that seem too young for them now...I too dream of grandbabies one day (even though mine are not far from the baby stage themselves) and I do love having little ones over and being able to plop them on my lap and pour over a stack of books. :) I saw a few of my favorites in your new purchases as well!!

Rachel J said...

I don't have words for this one. NONE. No words.

We've got quite a few of Mary's gifts around here, and my kids and I LOVE Them.