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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Creating a Family Culture that Includes Books

Alice swimming in a sea of tears
When I was a kid, I read a LOT.  And there were two pairs of books (Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland) that everyone in my family had read, and read often.  We even had LP recordings of Maurice Evans and Cyril Richard reading them.  I loved having that frame of reference with my family about beloved characters, quotes, and stories.  By the time I was 10, my dad was highly recommending his favorite adult titles (To Kill a Mockingbird--win.  Hard Times by Dickens--not so much).  In order to expand our mutual frame of reference, I had to enter the world of adult books, sometimes before I was quite ready to tackle them.  My sisters and I now bond over struggling through stories like "The Penal Colony" by Kafka before we had the skills to manage that content...

I'm incredibly grateful that my parents were interested in engaging with me about their favorite books--for children and adults.  I was thinking the other day about how rich my current family culture is with shared family reading, and how glad I am that not only me (a children's literature nut) but also my husband have been willing to immerse ourselves in the world of books for kids.  As a result, all of us catch references to characters ranging from Dr. Desoto and his wife to Nobody Owens to Bud Caldwell to Tip and J-Lo to Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men.  Turns out there is rich material there, too, and some of it a better fit for kids and young teens. We've moved on to swapping recommendations of books for adults, and have even read and listened to some collectively, but truly are grounded in our culture of books shared in my daughters' childhood.

Last night was a difficult one for my family, all of us feeling sick at heart and stomach.  No matter your political persuasions, I'm sure you have had the feeling of fending off despair and terror as you look at the world.  After some processing, we all agreed that the best solution that might possibly lead to getting some sleep was some Winnie the Pooh.  So my husband and 18-year-old and I snuggled on the couch, my 20-year-old called and we put her on speaker phone, and we read "In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday, " with my heartbroken daughter voicing Eeyore. There is nothing quite like the balm of a funny, lovable, familiar set of characters, shared with people you adore.  I highly recommend it!  And just think, when we recommend amazing books and audiobooks for car trips, we are helping families build their own culture of shared references that might even help them through rough times.

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