Children’s Books

Having a 4-year old, I have a standing routine where we read two stories before bed every night. She always tries to con me into “one more book, mommy”. 


I try to keep the books educational, appropriate, and when I can get away with it, good literature. As far as the good literature goes, I’ve succeeded with A.A.Milne books about Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan. By succeeded I mean that she allows me to read these to her, even though the copies I have contain minimum to nil pictures. She actually listens and asks intelligent questions when something goes over her head.


I have failed with a number of other books, including Alice in Wonderland (and Lewis Carrol’s other stories), A Little Princess, and I even tried once (with utter and complete failure to my dismay) Harry Potter.


There is hope, though. Some of the picture books I read to her are actually pretty great for little bibliophiles. She really enjoys this version of The Princess and the Pea, the Strega Nona books, which I mostly bought out of nostalgia, and a lot of the Dr Seuss books that were my favorites as a kid (Oh, the Places you’ll go, McElligot’s Pool, and others). 


She memorizes certain books, which fascinates me. She will recite entire books from memory if you get her on a roll. Her favorites are pretty much anything in the Pete the Cat series. I get it. They are sort of song-y and have a certain melodic flow about them. They are not my personal favorites, because the hundredth time you hear a shrill toddler voice belting out “I’m Rockin’ in my School Shoes!”, your brain begins to eat itself. However, the messages of the books are not something I can argue with. They are pretty educational and she’s learned certain skills (counting backwards, associating names of places with the function of that place, the books are very clever and engaging to toddlers), and they all have an “it’s all good” sort of message that I guess is supposed to help little ones not see small problems as the end of the world. 


Anyway, bad books, good books, annoying books, whatever; What I really enjoy is spending that time with her. It makes me so happy and so proud that my little girl loves reading and books as much as I do. I didn’t really get bedtime stories as a child, I think my mom was probably too busy just trying to keep the rent paid and food on the table. When I read to her, its a way for us both to communicate and also give me some background material to reference when I can’t quite understand what she’s saying – for example, when I can’t understand her words (she still has some trouble pronouncing certain things) she often goes to books as a reference point because she knows that it will help me to understand as we both experienced the story together. She knows that I’ll be able to find the connection that way. It’s amazing to me how much our little routine means to her, and it’s something we share, just us. I didn’t think it would become such a special and treasured time for me, and I was pleasantly surprised.


Here is an Article detailing the many benefits of reading to children. 


And a quote, to end with:


“When it comes down to it, I don’t have much in the way of advice to offer you, but here it is: Read to children. Vote. And never buy anything from a man who’s selling fear.” 
― Mary Doria RussellDreamers of the Day


On Journals

Ah, the journal. Alternately a savior and the embarrassing bane of my existence.

I’ll admit right here and now that I’ve never been good at journaling. I’ve given it a go, numerous times, and basically what happens goes along the same formula:

The journal is acquired in one of two ways:

1) It is gifted to me by someone who knows my love of writing.

2) I decide (on a whim) that I should start journaling again, and purchase a really pretty, ohmigosh, isn’t it just beautiful?? one.

Very rarely do I ever find myself picking up a years-old journal and opening it back up to the next empty page. I must always have a shiny new one. Why? Neurosis? I don’t know. Let’s go with that.

Sometimes, I even get a shiny new pen. Yeah, I love a good pen.

I will proceed to write in the new, beautiful journal for days, sometimes weeks, and on the rare occasion, multiple months. 

Not every day, of course. Not necessarily every week either, but for sure some progress is made over time. I will write about my joys and sorrows, I will write about random things that pop into my head, I will remember how much I love putting a real pen to real paper. How satisfying is the sound of the pen, gently scratching against the grain of the paper? How fulfilling is it to watch blank pages fill up with the record of my life?

Sometimes, I think about the person who might find my journal, 100 years from now. I try to mind that imaginary person as I write, I attempt to sound more educated, more pensieve, more interesting than I actually am. If I’m honest, it probably just makes me sound pretentious.

I’ve given up on writing exclusively for me, which is what “they” say you should do, as a writer. I’ve done this because I am my harshest critic. Literally nothing I write is good enough for my own reading pleasure. I know all the stuff that I’m going to do in writing. I’m not going to give myself a shock with a plot twist or anything, lets just face it. 

Which makes it hard for me to keep up interest in a journal. If I’m not writing it for me, who am I writing it for? I certainly don’t want anyone in my personal life reading through my journal, even though its not like I’ve got anything to hide. Its just that my writing in there isn’t polished enough for you to see, Jeeze. It’ll sound better in 100 years, I’m pretty sure of it.

But then of course I lose interest, or forget, or decide that I sound like a whiney/giddy/insert annoying verb here little girl, who is overly-concerned with unimportant things. There’s a bigger picture, self, and you’re just not seeing it. Quit the narcissistic rambling.

So in all honesty, I guess I’m a phase journaler. I chronicle my life in short bursts, with years of nothing between.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not an optimist about it. I still believe I can be a good journaler, even after multiple failed attempts.

I’m a glass half full kinda gal.

Speaking of which, I got a journal last Christmas, and I stopped writing in it back in March, I think.

You know what? I’m going to pick that baby up and write in it, tonight, or maybe this weekend some time. Maybe it’ll break the cycle. Or maybe it won’t.

I think the point, though, is that I try.