Every night my toddler chooses four books to read before bed. We’ve been reading to her since birth per the recommendations, and now, two and a half years into it, it’s become my favorite part of the day. We get cozy in her bedroom and read books like Chicka Chicka 123 and Wolfie the Bunny and Everywhere Babies. Right now, even though it’s May, she chooses Halloween-themed titles (she’s obsessed with monsters, zombies, witches, and ghosts). We recently went through a long-lived phase of exclusively reading Mickey Mouse stories; before that, it was sweet board books from Joyce Wan and Karen Katz. But while the books may change, the results are the same: we’re building a shared memory of reading together while simultaneously laying the groundwork for her future literacy skills. I hope it’s a memory she remembers her whole life, like I will.
With Mother’s Day on my mind I asked around to see what literary memories people have of their own moms. Emily remembers reading the B is for Betsy series by Carolyn Haywood with her mother. She says:
"Some of my most treasured possessions when I was a little girl were the small section of books on my shelf that had belonged to my mom when she was little. B is for Betsy was one of those, and I loved reading and rereading it with her. Not only because I loved the story, but also because I loved thinking about my mom as a little girl curling up with the same book. I loved having that connection with my mom!”
Julia’s literary memories span from her teenage years when her mom gave her Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. She says:
"Although I was a long way from becoming a mother, it was my first encounter with Lamott’s humor and worldview, which really felt like home to me, as it did to my mom. In the years since we have loved Lamott’s writing together, gifting each other her books, repeating her jokes, always in awe of her wisdom. I still have Operating Instructions on my shelf and it always reminds me of my mom, and that we share a now decades-long love for this author.”
Having a specific title that evokes memories of mom is a special, lasting connection. For Nicole, that book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; for Brittany, it’s Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. For Loribelle, it’s Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel and the Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish. Stephanie and her mom loved to read the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park together, and she still loves Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, which was the first book her mom read to her. As for me, I have fond memories of my mom reading a beautiful picture book about the four seasons to me, over and over again…and although I can still see the gorgeous artwork in my head, neither of us can remember the title of the book!
There are moments on some nights, when I’m exhausted from a long day or my daughter has had multiple meltdowns or my infant has kept me up all night, when I want to race through storytime so we can all go to bed. There are moments, too, when I simply cannot read another book about Halloween when, outside, the tulips are blooming. But I do it anyway, because that’s part of what parenting is about, and I try to remember there will come a day when my kids won’t want me to read to them anymore. So for now, I treasure it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there, reading to our babies.