Saturday, 24 March 2007

raised with reading

BabelBabe's meme started me thinking about books I loved as a child. I started writing some of them down (after all, we'll have to have these in the house for the young'uns soon) and then realized how many of these books I don't remember reading so much as I do hearing the voices of those who read them to me.

My mother always finished my bed-time ritual with Goodnight Moon. I remember listening as she re-told the old favorite, snuggled down in my blankets, knowing the words but loving the way her voice washed over me. I recognize some of her cadences in the way I read about the red balloon and the bowl of mush to my kids.

My first chapter book? The Wind in The Willows, read to me by my father, who swept me away to imagine life in a hole on the riverbank, deep and green and quiet. I used to lean out of bed to peer at the book, hoping that the type went all the way down the page and that he wouldn't stop. Chapter breaks were awful.

My grandparents told me stories from the Bible. I don't remember the actual book being there, just the rhythms of their sweet clear Southern voices and their hands gesturing, trying to share their joy with me.

My paternal grandfather was a different sort of man. I'm not sure he knew what to do with a child in the house - deep down he was probably afraid I'd burst into tears or wet my pants or something intolerable. I don't have any memories of he and I bonding over books until one night he came in, found me staring goggle-eyed at the titles in his library, and before shooing me off to bed, let me have his copies of Tom Sawyer and The Travels of Marco Polo. I read them, loved them, and loved feeling grown-up and accepted while discussing them with him. Sitting on the creaky leather sofa, he'd answer questions about the story and patiently correct my mauled pronunciations. Granddad was a well-traveled and well-read man - I'm sorry we didn't find more to talk about.

There are books I remember reading but can't quite remember the titles - that awful feeling of just-on-my-tongue. Some were finds suggested by the small-town librarian where I would spend lazy afternoons, some I know I read in high school. Perhaps when my children are going through school they'll bring them home and I'll remember their bright covers like glimpsing an old friend.


Liz said...

Isn't your first chapter book much like your first love -- you always remember? Or, as in my case, you actually remember it better -- Charlotte's Web!

Molly said...

That's probably because Wilbur WAS her first love!

Posybunny said...

That's weird...I don't think my parents ever read to me. I started reading early, though, so maybe they didn't see a need.

Of course, Charlotte's Web is still my favorite. And I remember loving Stuart Little and The Secret Garden.

Anonymous said...

My father read Pinocchio to me -- not the Disney version with Jiminy Cricket but the version which Pinocchio got so irritated by the do-gooder cricket that he squashed him on the wall... After that my first chapter book was Black Beauty. I felt like a grown up.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

What wonderful memories. Like posybunny, I do not recall my parents reading to me when I was young. So I am totally envious but glad you had that wonderful experience.

meggie said...

I cant remember my mother ever reading to me, but I do remember my Grandmother. I loved to snuggle up on her bed with her.
My favourite childhood book is the Wind in the Willows, although I have many.

Sarah Louise said...

The first book that I remember being read to me (beyond Cinderella...again? again?) was Wind in the Willows. However, we didn't finish reading it (I was in 1st grade--a busy year) and so I finished it at the ripe young age of 26. It is one of my all time faves.

The first books I remember reading on my own were the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. Love her!!

What a great post idea...I may have to borrow this...