I always cared about books. A book was the very first thing that I bought for my son even before I got his first baby grow. Books are integral to our family life. Our spaces seem incomplete without them and our days somewhat deprived if a book is not read or heard being read.
I never had many preconceptions about motherhood or about having a family. But there was always one thing that I didn’t want for my child. I never wanted to create a home where stories are not read, not told, not re-enacted or not invented. I never wanted books to be just lonely physical objects perched on shelves. In fact, I often felt sorry for those children who are given wonderful gifts of tales and fables and nothing is done with them… where those presents are really never unwrapped for them which means that the stories for these children never come to life. This is such a waste. Isn’t it true that to a large extent stories shape childhood? The stories we read, the stories we tell, the stories we repeat…. they make an impact on our child’s character and on the ways in which they perceive the world around them and their own role in it… Stories warn, stories educate, stories entertain and comfort… Stories remain when we are gone.
That first book that I purchased two years ago… There was a wonderland in that book. And I wanted my son to be transported there. There was vibrancy and strength in that book. And I wanted him to be energized by it. There was a meaning within the story. I wanted him to remember its message. And mainly there was joy… a pure joy that I sensed would emerge from engaging with it. A break. For my son and for me. Joyful, peaceful and energizing break.
Mothering with books is a form of simplified parenting. You allow the books to do the hard work of showing, telling, instructing and in many cases they are probably more effective than we are. It’s just much easier to follow a story than a parent. This year I am not buying any books but I am writing stories and poems because I see them as crucial for my son’s development. I see them as essential for his imagination, health and playtime. Without them I wouldn’t be myself and my son would not have the childhood that he deserves to have.
I know I am just a mum of a toddler… of a boy who cannot engage with an elaborate story yet and who frankly has just only recently moved on from the stage of book eating to actually being able to listen to the story. You may think that reading is not really that significant at this stage… that stories do not make as much impact…Well.. you see… I look at this small child and I look at the way he handles his books and I see a very strong need in him… the need to engage with the world that’s presented on those pages… the need to know, the thirst to understand… those small things such as why the little chicken is pulling a bucket full of water from the well or why the small kitten is in bed with a high temperature. How can you not tell the whole story when those small eyes are pleading to know?