Reading and being a reader are a big part of who I am. I honestly don't think it's hyperbole to say that I consider literacy to be a core tenet of mine, guiding my morality, ethics, and faith, and it's definitely how I find my way through the world. Needless to say, all this affects my parenthood and how I raise my children. I know I'm not alone, either. There are things only a book-loving mom will understand, because this isn't just a matter of making sure your kid eventually knows their ABCs — this is much bigger than that.
Book people are their own special niche. "But wait," you may ask, "How do I know if I'm a book person?" Generally speaking, you just know. It's something you feel in your bones, and there's a pretty good chance that other people see you that way, too. You're nerdy about reading, which is to say you take it seriously with joy. It's not just the stories themselves that delight you but the act of reading them, too. The physicality of the books. The thrill of collecting new titles on your e-reader.
Knowing the joy books and reading have brought into my life has inspired me to pass on that love to my children. This has lead to incidents, events, and challenges that only other parents in the same position can understand, including the following:
The Literary Possibilities Of Baby Naming
When you're a lover of books there are so many authors, characters, novels, and plays that have touched your life in meaningful ways. If you're anything like me, these people (real or imaginary) have probably made such an impression on you that you've considered giving your baby a name to honor that... but where to begin?! There are seriously probably hundreds of names I wanted to give my kids based on writers and their characters, but considering I didn't want to get into "TLC show" territory when it came to my family size, I had to really narrow my scope. (I went with naming my first son "William" for Shakespeare.)
The Agony Of Not Having Time To Read When You Have A Child
When I first had kids, this was a shock to my system and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, my identity. It's not just that I no longer had the time to read (though that struggle is absolutely real), but it was also that I didn't have the brain to read. Sometimes I'm just fried at the end of the day. I may have the time, I might even have the energy (read: I can stay awake), but I don't always have the mental space to actively absorb a book.
I need to rest my synapses... whether I want to or not.
The Conundrum Of Where To Keep Your Books
Because on the one hand, you want to encourage a love of books early, right? So you want your child's library (and maybe even some selections from your own) at kid level where they can explore their assorted tomes. On the other hand: they're children and they will destroy everything you love because they have no respect for anything at all. And, of course, it pains your book-loving heart to see a baby gnawing on the spine of Baby's First Pride and Prejudice. It's a balance and a gamble.
Thank goodness my kids mostly handled books carefully, but there were definitely some losses (most of which occurred when my daughter was teething).
Balancing Your Book Budget
Because now it's not just about buying your own books. Oh no, you need to build your little one's library as well. This gets expensive even if you're careful about it. And children's books are pricey AF, people! I get it, and I don't begrudge authors, publishers, or booksellers their costs (few people are getting uber-wealthy on children's lit), but still.
Being Considerate Library Patrons
Repeat after me, everyone: libraries are a book lover's best friend. I really can't stress how everything you want and need, plus at least 10 other services you didn't know you wanted or needed, are available through your local library. It's amazing. And considering the costly toll of owning books, libraries are a great place to fill in the blanks and help you make choices about permanent purchases.
But while most libraries have a dedicated children's section (or children's room or, if your town is particularly bougie, children's wing), you're still, you know, in a library. This means "library voices" and "library behavior" which even well-behaved children don't always fully get. This is to say nothing of the million and seven books and two million and four toys they will take out that you'll need to "help them" put back on the shelves.
Wrangling Children While Browsing For Your Own Selections
For some totally weird reason, even kids who enjoy going to the library (and my experience, most do) don't appreciate browsing the American History section with you as you try to decide between A People's History of the United States and Joseph J. Ellis' Founding Brothers. I don't get it.
The Fear Your Children Won't Enjoy Reading
I mean, you hear about these people, right? People who "don't really like reading" because it's "just not their thing." We don't judge them, but we just don't get them because reading is such a huge, fundamental aspect of our lives and identities. And what if your kid doesn't like reading? Will you ever be able to connect on a deep, personal level? These are concerns, people!
How To Cope With The Tragedy Of A Child Defacing A Book
It's going to happen. There's a good chance it will happen more than once. I try to see the silver lining and be like, "Oh, this taped page of Leaves of Grass is where my kids 'interacted' with the book, which makes it more personal and special." That's kind of true, right?
Let's just say "yes because otherwise I just have to weep over my wrecked Whitman.
Figuring Out When To Introduce 'Harry Potter'
Not all Harry Potter fans are strictly speaking "book lovers" but basically all book lovers are Harry Potter fans. So then there's the question of do you show the movies before you read the books? Do you read the books together or let them discover that joy on their own? Do you start when they're in grade school, knowing books four through seven get dark, or do you start later but make them (and by extension you) wait forever? These decisions make breast versus bottle feel like child's play.
Figuring Out Family Book Storage
Once your family has amassed enough reading material to get you through the apocalypse (I'm not saying that's something we need to worry about, but I'm saying we should have a 'just in case' protocol in place) the question is where to keep all of them. How many book shelves are too many book shelves? Where do you keep these book shelves once you have purchased them? What percentage of your home is it OK to have books covering? Asking for a friend... who is also named Jamie and is me.
Not Wanting To Get Rid Of Books You Probably Should Get Rid Of Because The Kids Might Want Them Someday
My husband and I have saved multiple copies of multiple books because, "This is my nice copy and this is the copy the kids can read when they get older." We've also held on to stuff we know we're probably never going to look at again because maybe the kids will be interested in physics or child psychology one day. Or my outdated encyclopedia of Star Wars characters. I don't want to limit their interests because I've limited my library!
The Overwhelming, Ambivalent Feeling Of There Being So Many Books To Share With Your Children
There's so much excitement thinking about all the books you'll get to share with your children, as well as a fear that you'll never get to it all. And of course, in your less ambitious/more rational moments, you know there's no possible way you'll ever get to everything but you're going to have a lot of fun trying.
Having To Read The Same Book To Your Child Over & Over When You're Itching To Show Them More
Don't get me wrong: I absolutely love Horton Hears A Who. But did you know I've read it so many times that I can literally recite the entire book? I'm not exaggerating.