The Right Book at the Right Time

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Julie Cole is away this week.  Our guest blogger and book-loving mama Heather Wray talks about her favourite childhood books and how the right book at the right time can encourage children to become lifelong readers.

When my grandfather was preparing to move into a retirement residence, he gave me a small trunk which held some of his most treasured possessions: my grandmother’s wedding dress, his silver baby spoon, and three 19th century volumes of The Works of Charles Dickens. Inside one of the books, in youthful fountain penmanship, is inscribed my great-great-grandfather’s name.

Now you can walk into any library or bookstore and grab a copy of Nicholas Nickleby, and so the fact that these books have been in the family for over a century indicates that the physical item can be just as valuable to a person as the words on its pages. It is said that if children connect with the right book—one that captures their interest and imagination—at the right time, they will become lifelong readers. Were these volumes the “right” books for my great-great grandfather?

I think back to some of the books I first read—books I still have—and they are very much like old friends.  Many were read several times, and some contain birthday wishes from the relatives who gave them to me. Books like The Secret Garden, Little House on the Prairie, and Anne of Green Gables  introduced me to worlds and times beyond my own.  They offered an escape and an understanding of what it is to be lonely, to struggle, to overcome.  The Velveteen Rabbit comforted me when my favourite stuffed bunny disappeared in the hospital after a case of appendicitis. And then there was Nancy Drew – a strong female character who always prevailed in the end.

Do I expect my descendants to keep these books forever? No. They will have their own treasures that will be meaningful to them. However, I do love revisiting stories I think my kids will enjoy and reading with them. With their yellowed pages and well-worn spines, these books reflect a simpler time. I read my first e-book this summer and loved it, but there is truly nothing like the all-sensory experience of snuggling up with little ones and turning the pages together. They laugh at the funny parts and widen their eyes at the suspenseful ones, and I’m fairly certain I will never throw those books away.