One night several years ago I walked into my toddler daughter's nursery and she and her brother were sitting together in the cushioned rocker. He was holding one of our favorite board books. He sat with her, cradling both her right side and the book as he read to her and her attention was rapt. I thought I might melt into a puddle right there.
Reading has always been important in our little family. One set of my children's great grandparents are former children's bookstore owners and one of their grandmothers is a retired children's librarian. Many gifts of amazing books have been bestowed upon them over the years. These include signed copies from such authors as Eric Carle. Even though books may not always be the most exciting gift to a child, in the end they always read them and I believe they are one of the best gifts to receive (and give).
For myself, reading certain books brings back amazing childhood memories. I adored Corduroy and I remember my mother reading it to me many times. We also had several books about Clifford, The Big Red Dog and those continue to be dear to me as well. I will never forget how we cried as a class when my third grade teacher read us Where the Red Fern Grows and how I felt at the end of Charlotte's Web.
Additionally, since my own children were born I have been introduced to many different books that I did not experience as a child - some simply because they were not written until more recently. Other books I have read with them were new to me because we did not have copies of them and we rarely went to the library when I was growing up.
So I see it as a gift to me, as well as my children, that classics like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and pretty much anything by Dr. Suess are now part of my own children's book repertoire.
Also, because I am a writer, I believe reading leaves us better equipped to write well. Books contain inspiration and vocabulary. They take us to places we may not imagine ourselves, but now can, thus giving us our own ideas. Characters with complex personalities and lives often make us see a new perspective we otherwise would not have noticed.
All of this starts early. It begins with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Max in Where the Wild Things Are. It continues with the train that says, "I think I can", the many stories of the The Magic Tree House and moves on into the halls of Hogwarts. It all starts with us reading to our children and sharing our favorite stories with them and perhaps, discovering some new favorites of our own as well.
Honestly, seeing my children read together is one the best joys of parenting. First of all, it proves that all the reading I did with them was well worth it. Plus, it is amazing to see them share the words and pictures as they laugh or even cry at times. In our household we are on the cusp of having all readers but for now I still cherish the moments when big brother reads to little sister. I relish in the fact that they will remember these stories and hopefully share them with their own children someday too.