Most people have some personal treasures from the past. Perhaps a piece of jewelry from a grandparent, a stuffed animal or love letters. At this time of year, I think about my ancient baseball glove which I’ve had since I was a boy with dreams of making the big league. But what about books?
Ask anybody—no, ask any READER—about a treasured, impactful book from the past and they will undoubtedly get a far-away look in their eyes and name at least one and possibly more memorable books that they have read in their lives.
For some people the answer might start something like, “Well, right now I’m reading a wonderful book that I think you will enjoy….” and then they’ll name it. More seasoned readers, like myself, might list off favorite books from each era of their lives. For example, I recall the “Hungry Tiger of Oz” and “Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys,” favorites in my elementary school days. Moving into high school, I recall my senior-year English teacher reading “The Old Man and the Sea” aloud to my last period class. We were so mesmerized with her reading that when the bell rang for the end of school day, no one moved until she finished the chapter! In college I recall reading “Steppenwolf” and the adventures of Harry Haller, and “The Electric Koolaid Acid Test.” As an English literature major, I read volumes of literature, poetry and drama (like every Shakespeare play) and yet the last best book I read was “Moby Dick” for a class about literary tragedies.
Some of these books were classics, but most were simply just the right book at just the right time for me that my friends at the time had recommended, were reading or were waiting for me to finish so they could take it to read. I’ve read many assorted books that at one time I considered favorites that over the years I have forgotten until somebody refers to them in conversation. Then they come limping back into my memory.
These days my favorites also are varied, yet I have developed the habit of finding authors I love and reading everything they have ever written. My relaxation reading focuses on what I call “man fiction” or books about a solo guy up against some awful person or group. Those escapist reads are interspersed with other best sellers and recommendations from friends and reviewers. I recently got totally lost in “What the Wind Knows,” a novel about time travel, family and love set in Ireland during the fight to separate from Great Britain.
Your children may be just beginning or well into their literary journeys. As a beneficiary of a life liberally spiced with books, I encourage all parents and teachers to teach their children to love books and libraries and reading, and to offer their kids a constantly rich diet of excellent titles to permanently elevate their language and their intellectual lives.
Let’s all work to give children treasures of the literary kind.