One of the greatest joys in being a mom, I think, is being able to experience childhood through your child’s eyes. I think I had a pretty great childhood and I want my daughter to have the same, only better. This is the main reason my husband and I decided to pack up and leave Los Angeles, moving to the bustling suburbs of Phoenix (that, my friends, is sarcasm). I always dreamed that my children would be born and raised in L.A., my favorite city on Earth. But after having my daughter, things changed, and my husband and I decided the suburban childhoods of our pasts would be best for our new daughter, and our family as a whole. So far it’s worked out pretty well, but whenever we feel we made the wrong choice, our motto is “It’s all for Ella.”
One of my favorite things as a child was going to the library and checking out as many books as I could carry home. My neighborhood in the suburbs of Denver had a small library right at the top of the hill, next to the swimming pool, tennis courts and elementary school. And about a 5 minute walk from my house. I spent a lot of time at that little library, graduating from the children’s book section to the teen book section. My favorite authors as a child were Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White and Shel Silverstein.
Now Ella and I can share in our love of the library. We have been going once a week since she was two and we check out a minimum of 20 books. One thing I’ve noticed in our trips to the library is the number of bad children’s literature there is. I have chosen to systematically check out books in alphabetical order. Even though we check out 20 books per week, I feel I need to go through 40 books, just to get 20. And then, when we get home and read them, sometimes we hit the jackpot and sometimes more than half of our books are a flop. We are currently in the “T’s” and making our way through the Dr. Suess and Amelia Bedelia collections at the same time. Some great books we just read are by Nancy Tillman, including “On the Night You Were Born” and “The Crown on Your Head.”
Ella also loves to read the “Pinkalicious” series, “Olivia,” “Fancy Nancy” and “Eloise.” She thinks “Fly Guy” and “Minerva Louis” are hilarious, and she enjoys both “Arthur” and “D.W.” books. We also stumbled upon some smart and funny reads by the author Amy Krause Rosenthal. Our favorites were “Little Pea” and “Bedtime for Mommy.” One of my best friends, and former college roommates, is now a literacy specialist, so she provides us with amazing books. Some favorites she has sent are “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, “Kitten’s First Full Moon” by Kevin Henkes, “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” and “Knuffle Bunny,” both by Mo Willems, and the most recent, a favorite of Ella’s and her two kids as well, “The Pencil” by Allen Ahlberg.
I kept most of my childhood collection of books for myself, but after I had my daughter, I decided I would not be selfish and I would share them with her. Each book is clearly marked in my 8-year-old scribble and includes my then phone number and address with instructions to “Please return if found.” I’m not sure where they came from, but I remember a sheet of small, red dot stickers, which I dutifully placed in the top left corner of each book jacket. Lest either of my sister’s think this was their book, my name and a red sticker would prove otherwise. So my Ella has inherited this collection, red stickers and all. We put them in her room, on a shelf in her closet thinking she would enjoy them in the future. She calls them the “big kid books,” and would often ask to look at the covers and ask what the stories were about.
We’ve recently started reading those “big kid books” after coming across a DVD of a made-for-TV version of “Runaway Ralph” by Beverly Cleary at out library. I told Ella she had the original story “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” also by Beverly Cleary, in her closet, and she was so excited she wanted to start reading it. She loved it! Since then, we’ve also read “Socks” by Beverly Cleary, “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate Dicamillo (not mine as a kid, but a left over movie promo item from my previous life), and we’re currently reading about one of my favorite childhood literary characters in “Ramona Quimby Age 8,” by Beverly Cleary. We’ve also tried “Charlotte’s Web,” but I don’t think she was too interested in a story about a spider. I’m trying to explain how nice the spider is and I hope we’ll get to read it soon. As much as she loves to hear the stories, I love to share them with her and re-read them myself. There are so many wonderful Beverly Cleary books; I think we’ll be reading them for a while. When we’re done, I’d like to introduce Ella to Superfudge, another of my favorite childhood literary characters.
My advice is to read to your kids, and get them excited to go to your local library. You can “travel” to Paris or Moscow with Eloise, get “Tickled Pink” with Pinkalicious, or laugh together at the thought of a mouse actually riding a motorcycle. It’s wonderful to experience the awe your child feels as you read to them, and to watch them realize the possibilities in life are endless.