Dropping everything to read

You know when I felt we were going to be okay, my little family and me?

When my sister shared that April 12 — the unexpected date of my son’s birth — is Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day, a national celebration in which families are encouraged to settle down and enjoy books together at home.

Ramona booksThe date is a special one: Oliver shares his birthday with author Beverly Cleary, who wrote so many of books beloved by children, including me. Chief among them are the “Ramona” stories. I remember borrowing Ramona Quimby, Age 8 from the library so much that my parents eventually broke down and got me my own copy.

When it came to Cleary’s famous sisters, I was the quintessential older sister — the Beezus — to my little sister’s Ramona. Cleary’s stories were the first “chapter books” I related to on a personal level, seeing shades of both Katie and myself in her delightful characters. Along with Judy Blume’s Super Fudge, another book I read constantly, the “Ramona” novels were my earliest introduction to reading as pleasure. The more time I spent with those folks? The more I realized characters can become as “real” as your own dear friends, which has added texture to my entire life.

My elementary school was fortunate to have a fabulous librarian — a woman with whom I’m still in contact. I remember her helping us select chapter books and encouraging our zest for reading, even dressing up as the Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat on special occasions. I was such a dutiful little reader that, after finishing a story, I ran excitedly back to her with completed book reports that would earn me paper “reading mice.” They were more valuable than gold.

Though 10-week-old Oliver isn’t exactly ready to “drop everything and read,” I want reading to be a part of his world from the get-go — and already love sharing stories with him. My favorite right now is Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born, which never fails to make me ugly cry, but picture book versions of Old MacDonald and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar are also in heavy rotation.

I’ve imagined building my child’s library and reading books together long before this sweet babe was even a twinkle in my eye. When I was pregnant, I often read to my belly — even when it felt a little silly. In fact, when Ollie was in the NICU, one of the saddest moments I had was sitting in our home library surrounded by the children’s stories I’d been “reading” him for months. I thought I was doing okay — until seeing a stack of board books cracked me right in half.

But that was only temporary, of course. Now that he’s home (and feisty!), I’ve tried to get in the habit of sharing a bedtime — or close to bedtime — story with him. I’ll admit that there have been nights I couldn’t muster the strength, but I already look forward to these quiet moments together and hope that, as he grows, he will do the same.

I want to raise a reader. I want my child to find shades of himself in powerful, courageous, brave and wonderful characters — just like his mom. Though I know Oliver will be his own person, his own man, I know we can find stories that will interest him . . . no matter what he’s someday interested in. And I’m so very ready to walk with him down that literary path!

As a lifelong lover of books, it seemed serendipitous that Oliver’s unexpected birth would fall on a day dedicated to reading — and in honor of a favorite childhood author, no less. My sister shared the news of D.E.A.R. Day with me as I recovered in a hospital bed away from my tiny babe, stunned and hurting and sad.

It felt a little like a novel-toting guardian angel tapping on my shoulder, promising that Ollie and I would have many stories to share.

I couldn’t wait to get started.


Reading with Oliver


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17 thoughts on “Dropping everything to read

  1. I LOVE reading and can’t imagine life without books. One book I particularly loved reading to my children when they were younger was “Love You forever” by Robert Munsch – if you want ugly crying, that book will do it! It amused the kids to see me trying to read through the sobbing; seriously though, they loved being read to.

  2. On The Night You Were Born (and all of her other books, really) always get me all misty-eyed! What’s worse is that I first read all of her books at work since I’m a librarian and wanted to check them out before deciding if I’d add them to my wishlist. Ugh! Such great books.

    I have also always credited the Ramona books (and my mom) for my love of reading. I LOVE Ramona. I used to have a hilarious picture from one of the books of her in a cat mask framed in my room when I was a kid.

    That really is amazing that he was born on D.E.A.R. Day! It’s such a perfect day for a book lover to have a baby! 🙂 I remember in elementary school, some of my teachers used to celebrate that and have us read in class. One of my teachers even had D.E.A.R. time every day… it was great!

    • So glad to find another Ramona lover, Steph! I really need to invest in the series again . . . I’m pretty sure a few are floating around my parents’ house, but my sister and I will probably want to fight over them. 🙂 Being a librarian, I’m sure you come across all sorts of awesome children’s books . . . you should do a post on some little-known favorites of yours. I’d be all over that! 🙂

  3. Oh Meg, you are going to have such a lovely time raising your child to read! I believe that a culture of reading really does start early and if he grows up seeing his mother getting such enjoyment out of reading then it can’t fail.

    I am in my fifties and I still credit my love of reading, books and stories of all kinds to my mother’s reading to us and my father’s telling of funny anecdotes that had happened around our neighbourhood when he was a child.

    I hope you both have a wonderful time together with your books!

    • Thank you so much, Susan! Like you, my love of books and learning can definitely be credited to my parents. I can’t wait to have “Drop Everything and Read” hours with Oliver!

    • That’s awesome, and I totally agree: very special to share a love of reading. I can’t wait until Ollie is old enough to select books himself, and I look forward to discovering what his favorites are someday!

  4. I love when stars align and there are special indicators from the universe. Your Oliver is a lucky little guy to have a mom who’s so passionate about books and learning. Your posts since having your son have been really sweet and touching, Meg. I’ve really enjoyed watching you blossom into motherhood:).

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Jenn — I really appreciate it! Hopefully Oliver will find his mom’s book obsession endearing, not annoying. Only time will tell!

  5. So glad things are going well with all of you and especially Oliver! We really enjoyed Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle as well as any of Sandra Boynton’s books. Maybe it was sleep deprivation at the time, but hers always made me giggle. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is great for the alphabet (be sure to get the full version, not the abbreviated one) as well as Alpha Oops. Enjoy!

  6. Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy. The Ramona series brings back wonderful memories of reading. I can’t quite get my girls into them but we did like the movie. One of my coworkers had bought “Hug” by Jez Alborough. We loved that one as well as the classic, “Good Night Moon.”

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