Books were a big focus in my family when I was growing up. I thought that everyone had walls of bookcases with lots of old books in them. Our house was filled with books from my parents’ childhoods, as well as old books that their parents had owned, and their parents. Copies of Dick and Jane were juxtaposed with The XBarX Boys and Elsie’s Girlhood, The Girls of St. Wode’s with The Flower Girls, A Little Maid of Mohawk Valley with Tarzan. By the time the big resurgence of Anne of Green Gables occurred in the 1980s, one of my sisters had already accidentally dropped our 1912 edition while reading in the bathtub.
In the room that my younger sister and I shared as preschoolers, we had a bookcase filled with more recent books, although still mostly handed down from our older brother and sister. Occasionally our mother would bribe us with new Golden Books from the grocery store to keep us in line while shopping. Every night, one of our parents would read us a stack of stories before shutting off the light, our last thoughts of the day saturated with literary convention.
I have kept up the tradition of the home library with my own children, buying books for them before they were born, reading to my eldest in the womb after learning of neurological research confirming that the rhythm of oral reading is different than that of everyday speech, and even in utero, babies can be prepped to read.
One reason I remember so many of the books that I enjoyed as a child is because they sat in a bookcase next to my bed, and I read them all the time. Kids need repetition while they are internalizing the reading process. That’s why little children request books to be read to them over and over, sometimes right away! They listen with eager ears, poring over the pictures as they absorb the verbal context. Frequently, they will put their finger on the page and point out each word as it is read. Woe to the adult who skips a word! When playing alone, prereaders will often parrot a familiar story out loud as they turn pages at exactly the right moment. Continuity is important, familiarity with a work allowing a child to concentrate on the nuances and details of the words. How can a book be sufficiently internalized if it goes back to the library after two weeks?
Once a child is in second grade or so, the need for repetition diminishes, as does the need for pictures. I am actually a huge fan of the public library system, for older children. Libraries have been responsible for much of my reading fodder since age eight, my appetite for books and pocketbook both satisfied.
When I really love a book I’ve read, I head to amazon.com to buy it, so that I can share it with my friends and even my children at a later date. So that I’ll have a copy when it goes out of print. So that I can enjoy it again in a few years, after I’ve forgotten the details. So that I can notice the title as I pass by my bookcase and recall a moment of the story, a warm memory of a good read.