Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from October. We asked, “Have you ever re-read books as an adult that had been your own childhood favorites? What was the experience like the second time around compared to the first time? If you also shared the book(s) with children, how did their reactions compare to your own?”
Cara Holman wrote:
“The first of my three pregnancies was barely confirmed before I headed out to The Secret Garden, our local children’s bookstore at the time, and loaded myself up with some of the all-time favorite picture books from my own childhood: The Cat in the Hat, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Where the Wild Things Are, The Story of Babar, and Curious George, just to name a few. I just couldn’t wait to share all the books that had been special to me as a child with my own children.
After I became a mother, reading with each of my children served as a daily source of great pleasure. It was then that I discovered not only did my three children have very distinct personalities, but also, distinct preferences for books. One thing they agreed on though: they didn’t in general care much for “old books,” loosely defined as “any book that was around when mom was a kid.” Picture books alone were exempt from this rule; once they graduated to chapter books however, classics were pre-empted by the Johnny-come-latelies to the world of books. In fact, more often than not, my children made a beeline over to the “new books” section of our library, to check out the very latest offerings. Perhaps it was the shiny book jackets that attracted them, or the feel of the crisp new pages that didn’t yet have a chance to become dog-eared.
Thankfully there were some notable exceptions to the “no old books” rule. All three of my children got caught up in the delightfully escapist adventures in Half Magic (Edward Eager), The Pink Motel (Carol Ryrie Brink), The White Deer (James Thurber), The Trouble With Jenny’s Ear (Oliver Butterworth) and their all-time favorite The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster); but Mary Poppins, Pippi Longstocking, Henry Huggins and The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet? Forget it! There’s just no accounting for taste it seems.
Heartened by the fact that there apparently were some old books that could capture my children’s interest if only they gave them a chance, I made a deal with them. Once they became independent readers, they could check out any book from the library they wanted to read by themselves, but for our daily shared reading time, I got to select half the books and left the choice of the other half strictly up to them. This way, I sneakily ensured that some of my beloved childhood books were thrown into the mix as well. It turned out to be a win-win situation. I was introduced to books I never would have read otherwise, and over time, they too became fans of many of my old favorites.
I think what appeals to me the most about sharing my childhood books with my own children is the sense of recapturing some of the warmth and closeness I experienced in my childhood as my parents read to me. Favorite books always transport me to some magical place, and when my children snuggle up to me at bedtime, and read along silently with me, correcting me if I skip a word as I once corrected my dad, I can almost close my eyes and pretend I am that child again.”
Cara Holman may be contacted at: cara(dot)holman(at)gmail(dot)com.