In an age when everything connects to the internet, TV, phones, computers, e-readers, nearly everything, books, I feel, are slipping away as something we value. I, personally, own a book of American poetry that was published in 1905. I got it at a yard sale for a quarter and wanted it both because I love poetry, but because it was also printed the same year my great-grandmother was born. The binding is in good condition and there is a note, handwritten, in the front cover. This book once meant something to someone and as a teen, I bought it for twenty-five cents.
Books have always meant a great deal to me. I’m slowly coming around to the idea of actually owning an ebook reader, though it would be a simple one, not anything with a lot of flash. It might have a backlight, but nothing flashy. I still place a great importance on the ability to open a book and lose myself in the characters. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really understood the people around me that I cling to these characters so deeply. I cry when they cry. I laugh when they laugh. I am betrayed, loved, overjoyed right along side of them. It’s a great feeling to be able to get inside someone’s head and truly understand what they are feeling, what their motives are and who they are. What makes them tick?
This love of books has played heavily in my parenting. We easily have over three hundred children’s books in our home and we only have two kids. I can say ‘NO’ to any toy in the toy store, I can deny requests for candy, but I stutter and hesitate to say ‘NO’ when they ask for a book. One of the characters my daughter has fallen in love with is “Junie B. Jones“. Junie B. (that B. is quite important I assure you) has become a best friend to a little girl who struggles with peer relationships. She has given a voice to a little girl who has trouble speaking. Junie B. is just a typical little girl. She’s witty, sarcastic, a bit rude, and undeniably funny. She is a hoot (a hoot I tell you) to engage and captivates my daughter for hours at a time. Her adventures through Kindergarten and First Grade joined our family when my daughter was just four years old. Chapter books were a little out of her range to read alone, but we had a blast reading Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder when Sissy started loosing her teeth. Spending that time with Sissy and sharing Junie B. with her made loosing her teeth less traumatic and Junie B. has had many adventures that keep us laughing for days.
Another series of books my daughter has discovered more recently (since we now own all but three of the 27 books in the Junie B. series AND we have the journal, the puzzle book and plush doll), is actually THREE series’ of books. Written by Dan Gutman, “My Weird School”, “My Weird School Daze” and “My Weirder School” have taken our house by storm. Though we only own five of the 41 books that make up the three series’, A.J. has become a fan favorite. Though a bit more… crass… than Junie B. (a trait I don’t forgive easily), he too has assisted my daughter to find a voice, albeit a rude, snarky little voice at times, he has helped her to learn that I don’t appreciate words like “stupid” and that being mean to others just because you don’t like them will not be tolerated, so he too has brought valuable lessons to our home.
Both of the characters, Junie B. and A.J. are about my daughter’s age or are in the same grade, which makes them easily relateable. These characters, for better or worse, have brought joy, humor [Junie B. Jones Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (p.s. So Does May), anyone?], and lessons we all need to learn. My daughter emulates these characters, they have become her best friends and for that I am grateful. They have allowed her an even greater list of phrases to recite ecolalically and have allowed her better understanding of social situations for children her age.
I am a firm believer that every child should have books and often donate books to local libraries, friends and classrooms at my daughter’s school. No child should go through life without knowing that this one time in a coconut tree, the letters all fell out! or that “Where the Sidewalk Ends” really is the same place where imagination begins.
My children have read classics such as, “Alice and Wonderland”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Peter Pan”. They have read such nonsense as “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!” and the works of Shel Silverstein. At six and a half, and barely three, they know the value of turning off the TV and playing together or sitting quietly with a book before bed. They have little knowledge of imagination, but they know that when they open a book they are about to experience something totally new, totally wonderful and totally unique.
I think they could be sisters, what do you think?