Ours was a household of books, and this has been the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. I never saw my parents sitting down without a book in their hands. They passed along their reverence for reading and their respect for the written word to my brother and me, and it has been my mainstay for my entire life. To feed my reading appetite, my mother took me to the library, and when that wasn’t enough, Mom and Dad bought me books, though we weren’t rich. Now, in turn, I buy my mother audiobooks. She’s no longer sighted, but hearing the written word is still her favorite pastime.
I believe the books I loved best as a child were The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink and Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield. I also read the Nancy Drew books, the Judy Bolton books, and the Bomba the Jungle Boy series. Why these particular books? I’m guessing that they assured me that someday I’d have adventures too, that fabulous and incredible things were possible in this world, that adversities could be overcome.
When I was expecting our first child, I read to the baby while he was in the womb; at that time, that was a new idea, meant to introduce your child to learning as soon as possible. It was easier with the next two, because I figured they heard me reading to their older siblings. We started out with Pat the Bunny and moved on to Dr. Seuss. When they became a little older, I read a lot of Richard Scarry books to my children. Since our first son loved fire engines, I learned a lot about them, too. I discovered a book with a picture of every single vehicle that could possibly be used by a firefighting company; and I learned how to do a passable siren imitation.
I read the Beatrix Potter books to my children, too, and we certainly picked up some vocabulary words from those. One of my sons loved Curious George. The Berenstein Bears were favorites, though my daughter liked the bears of Susanna Gretz and Allison Sage better. Teddybears Moving Day was a hit.
I’m afraid I wasn’t the kind of mother who loves to work at arts and crafts with my children, because I’m very un-handy; but I would always read to them when they wanted. As they grew, we’d read a Bible story together every night, and I believe it was from some version of Kelly Pulley’s The Beginners Bible.
It was a little sad when my children insisted on reading for themselves, but it was also interesting to see what they picked. For many years I gave each of them books for Christmas, no matter what else they might be getting, and now I give them gift certificates.
I’ve done my best to pass along my parents’ legacy. I hope it proves as huge a benefit to our three children as it did to me.
Editor’s Note: Charlaine Harris is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse books which have been recently adapted into the hit HBO show, True Blood.