If I could bottle up only one sound from my childhood, it would be the sound of my mother’s voice reading to me.
Some of my earliest memories are of us reading together on the couch, my brother and sister and me all clamoring to sit as close to our mother as we could. My mother’s soft voice read to us fairy tales and nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss and Aesop’s fables, little Golden books and Bible stories straight out of our big children’s picture Bible. For a half hour or more each night, we sat enchanted by the words and the sound of her reading aloud.
This daily ritual continued long after I could read for myself. Not a day went by that my mom didn’t read a book to me, from the time I was too young to remember straight through elementary years. Even after I started Jr. High, my mother still often read aloud: short snippets from magazine articles, a particularly captivating paragraph from a book she happened to be reading for her own enjoyment, a chapter from the Bible in preparation for the week’s Sunday school lesson.
Sometimes my mother would help me study by reading my school textbooks aloud to me. Once, in college, I was frustrated with a very lengthy poem I needed to read for my literature class. I had returned home for a weekend visit, but spent the majority of Saturday in tears over the assignment. That evening my mother sat on the edge of my bed and read the entire poem aloud to me. Suddenly the poem made sense. My frustrations ceased, and I understood what the poet wanted to convey.
My mother always knew the best books to read. She was the one who introduced me to the wonderful stories that contained characters who became like special friends:
- Scout and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird
- Anne, Diana, Marilla, and dear, sweet Matthew from Anne of Green Gables
- Father Tim and his large dog Barnabas from At Home in Mitford
- Ramona Quimby from Beezus and Ramona
- Jo from Little Women
- Sara Crewe who indeed was The Little Princess
One Christmas, my mother bought me an boxed set of The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those tattered books, read and reread countless times over the years, still line my bookshelf. Those stories are so ingrained in my mind that Mary and Laura, Ma and Pa feel almost like my own family.
One of my favorite parts of going to elementary school was the Scholastic Book Club orders. My mother always let me order at least one book, usually more. And if we walked into a bookstore, we almost always walked out with at least one book. I think it was hard for her to say no to book purchases.
Years ago, when my teens were toddlers, my mother called to tell me she had ordered books for my children for Valentine’s Day. She asked me not to open the box until Valentine’s Day to keep it a surprise for the kids. A few days later, a box arrived on my doorstep. I dutifully set it aside. One the morning of Valentine’s Day, I gathered my kids around to open the box together. Sure enough, inside were three new picture books, one for each child. But also in the box, were TWO books for me. It was maybe the best surprise gift I have ever received.
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A day or two ago, I received an email from BookBub, a free service that helps readers discover books. The email asked the question:
What book are you thankful your mother introduced you to?
The email went on to share the answers from several BookBub employees. The books varied from more recent books such as the Magic Tree House series and Harry Potter to older classics such as The Outsiders and various novels by Judy Blume.
Naturally, I paused to determine my answer to this question, but I couldn’t come up with just one book.
(Well, actually I could. I’m grateful my mother read the Bible to me and encouraged me to read the Bible for myself. But I almost consider the Bible to be far more than just a book, so it feels wrong to give that as my answer.)
My mother introduced me to so many books and characters that it feels impossible to pick just one. However, I’m grateful my mother introduced me to reading … but not because of the books or characters or authors.
I am grateful my mother loved reading for because she loved it, I did too.
And reading gave me:
- a love for words and the thoughts they convey
- an appreciation for good literature
- a head start in academics
- an entire world of experiences at my fingertips
- imagination and creativity
- the pleasure of visiting libraries and bookstores
- sharing excitement over discovering new books and authors
- writing and the power of using written words
But perhaps the most important gift of reading was a way to connect to my quiet introverted mom. Somehow, in the pages of books, I found a way to enjoy the world with my mother.
So on this Mother’s Day Weekend, when I have so very many reasons to be thankful for my Mama, I’m recalling one of the more precious memories from my childhood … reading with my mom.
Thanks, Mama, for reading with me. I’m so grateful that you did.