Books make it better

I was a hyperactive, extroverted child. Shocking, I know.

I had an insatiable need for companionship and stimulation and so once I learned to read, my parents, teachers and friends found it much less exhausting to have me around. You see, when I was buried in a book, they got a break from me and THAT is why I’m alive today to write what I’m sure will be a blog that will make you shake me and slap my face and say, “Good God, Woman, what the hell kind of sissified crap is this?” So be it.

Maurice Sendak, the author of the children’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” died this week. I can only hope his Heaven is something as fantastic and brilliant as the places he took the imaginations of millions of children while he walked this weird and wonderful planet. If you haven’t read this book, I have a big, FAT sad face on for you. You are missing out. And if you haven’t read this book, your child might not have either and that is such a shame. One of the great pleasures of childhood is being transported into fantasy worlds with incredible and magical people and beings created by writers like Maurice Sendak.

As parents, we have the crummy job disseminating the boring and annoying information about how  un-brushed teeth will rot and how children’s faces turn inside out permanently if they don’t eat their veggies. We have to give kids consequences, lectures, hold them while they scream out in pain getting their first stitches and suffer helplessly while they cry their first angry tears of frustration and rejection. Those are the shit jobs. It’s so very lucky that when these things happen, we also have the opportunity to do the stuff that we dreamed of doing when we had the little ankle biters. WE GET TO READ THEM STORIES!

We have the PRIVILEGE of snuggling up with them and sharing tales of adventure, traveling with them to far- away lands AND places that seem a lot like home, making friends and sharing dreams with the characters in the stories. Books provide kids with a place to escape reality or learn to face hardship and tragedy with the bravery and confidence of their favorite literary heroes.

We also have the OBLIGATION to read to them and with them and to provide them with as many opportunities to find books that will hold their interest and nurture their hearts and minds. But there are some parents who consider this obligation as merely an option. When I hear a parent say that they don’t read to their kids, or that they don’t take their kids to the library, OR worst of all that books do not factor into their child’s the daily routine, it makes me as sad and mad as when I hear a parent say that their kids don’t bother reading a book if a movie based on the book is coming out.

REALLY?

Reading is essential to the growth of a child.

Reading is a required skill for existing in the world as we know it, no matter what!

And everybody knows that the books are ALWAYS better than the movie. I mean where the hell do these people think the awesome images in the movie came from? A BOOK FOR FUCK SAKE! A talented genius who threw their heart and soul into creating world of dreams for others to visit! Skipping the book and just seeing the movie annoys me as much as when adults claim that it’s ok if they smoke cigarettes in the car while driving with kids because they keep the window cracked.

I give not a shit if YOU as a parent do not enjoy a good mystery or romance, but I do care if your lack of enthusiasm for the written word is negatively influencing your child. Books have been the only friends or parents that some people have ever known. Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary helped raise me. Stephen King taught me about reality, Elisabeth Kubler Ross sent me on a new career path, and Emmett Fox and Joseph Campbell guided me in my faith journey. My mother, Judy Kane, consistently provided me with nearly unlimited access to the Nichols Library in Naperville, Illinois and that was practically a full time job because like I said before, I was insatiable for stimulation and companionship. Books made it better, for both of us.

There are too many children who don’t have food. There are too many children who don’t have medical care. Children suffer. Books make it better. Help them get books. Donate books wherever and whenever you can. And if your struggle as an adult to read or find a way to love reading and share the experience with your child, you might want to read what Maurice Sendak shared about a child who read his book:

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a drawing on it. I answer all my children’s letters – sometimes very hastily – but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

And THAT is why the glorious words and pictures matter. After a trip to the library this week, my son was literally leaping around begging me to let him stay up and finish a book that he just checked out by Jordan Sonnenblick called, "Notes From the Midnight Driver." Inside, I was tingling with bliss, knowing that the authors and stories he loves are becoming a part of him forever, and the one damn think I know I am doing right as a parent is saying YES to books.

http://www.firstbook.org/ HELP KIDS WHO NEED BOOKS GET BOOKS BECAUSE BOOKS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER!

P.S. Here is a bit a wrote about some of my favorite books that tackle tricky topics

http://www.chicagoshopping.com/toyskids/chishop-kids-books-that-take-on-tricky-topics-20120430,0,7069787.photogallery

READ TO YOUR KIDS EVERYDAY!

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    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment about books. Of any possession my children have, I hold their books as their most prized and get on them about their treatment of them. I don't read to them as much as I used to since they can read for themselves but I make sure they get some reading time in each day and tell me about it (if anything just to make sure they are reading). Books got me through many a rainy day (in WA, so ya plenty), family trip, and late nights. I can only remember a couple times staying up late to play games but remember many books that I read straight through the night because I couldn't put them down. Books are one of the things that man has done right and continues to do well from one generation to the next.

  • Today they call it either ADHD or ADD, as you say when I was young I was diagnosed as hyper-active. Lovely. I can't remember which came first, The Outsiders or The Pigman (Paul Zindel), regardless after reading those books as an eight grader, I was hooked on reading. For years I tried to encourage my son to read by dragging him at a young age to Barnes and Nobel and later to the library. He never shared my passion until recently. One can only hope he supports career goals by reading. I read for enjoyment but also to read keep current in my field and help maintain a career. It is my sincere hope that the electronic media propels writers to write more!

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