Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read. My mom started teaching me when I was about 3 or 4, and I just took off. I remember as a kid spending a rainy Saturday curled up in a chair reading from a whole stack of Babysitter's Club books. It was not unusual that I would read two or three in a sitting. I was kind of a freak.
We had this huge, ridiculous bookshelf at home that my dad had built. He basically took two logs, stood them up, cut board sized grooves, and slid unfinished lumber in for each shelf. They were huge and heavy and filled with books. A set of encyclopedias, all the how-to books, a set of the "classics" (you know, the ones with the dark colored binding and gold letters) and all you could read Nancy Drew and Grace Livingston Hill books. There were more, but those I remember right now. Next door, at my uncle's house, it was the same way. Loads of books. Louis L'Amore, Tom Clancy, Joh Grisham, Danielle Steele, Jean M. Auel, miscellaneous romance novels... hey, I didn't say they were appropriate for children, but they were there just the same. We grew up surrounded by books. All of us kids (my three siblings and my three cousins) grew up reading. I lugged books with me everywhere.
One of the first things I bought for Jason was a book. He got a job at the prison in Texas, so I bought him a book about criminals. You know, you have to read up on your new job, so what better way to be successful in a maximum security prison than to read some books about it, right? He was appreciative, but he also told me that the only book he had truly ever read the whole way through was Where the Red Fern Grows. Seriously? I was appalled. But I didn't give up. I just couldn't imagine my future children having a father that didn't model a healthy love of reading.
By the time we were married, Jason had read a few more books. After he began attending men's group regularly at the church, he became inundated with books from our pastor and other men who were discipling him. About two years ago, he had read more books than I had in that one year span! My excuse was that I was busy bearing his children and using my free time to shower, pump, change a diaper, or sleep. My life was a bookless blur for a while there.
Now, Jason is reading and buying books all of the time. I am back in the game too and have read a whole fat load of books this year, for bible study, book reviews and for fun, believe it or not. We have tons of books floating around this house. Crammed in what little shelving we have, stuffed under chairs, stacked against walls, piled up in corners, spilling out of the ten different bags I use intermittently. Leilee's pink, fuzzy, singing board books find their way in between all the couch cushions. Library books hide among them all and pretend to be ours, until we realize six months later that they aren't and begrudgingly pay the fine. We return them to their real home, only to have Jason take the kids to the library a day or two later to check out another couple of bags full. (I can't complain... he is modeling a healthy love of reading...errg.)
My other fear (among many) was that my children wouldn't love to read. I worried that they would have a hard time, or hate it, or both. I worried that I didn't do a good enough job teaching them their alphabet or working with them on letter sounds. I felt guilty that I wasn't the one who taught them to read before they even started school, like my mom did with me. I regretted not spending twenty minutes a day since birth holding a book in their face. But, so far my fears have been relieved. Connor lugs at least five books around in his backpack. He has somewhat of a competitive streak, so he reads twice as much per week as his teacher asks them to. Grady has jumped into reading without a glitch and is slowly showing more interest. Leilee just started wanting to read about one zillion books before bedtime. She "reads" along and is learning some of them by heart.
Connor and Grady have a tiny, particle board bookshelf that bends and groans under the weight of their books about trucks and dinosaurs, fossils and planets, children's bibles and first readers. Connor has asked for, and received most of, the Audobon Field Guides for North America. My mom buys them books all the time with her Scholastic book points. We buy them books at garage sales and Goodwill and any other time we think we should. They have books on our Amazon wishlist this year (for those of you who read this one.... books are on the sixth page).
This leads me to the gift part of my post. I hate that Connor and Grady's books are everywhere. I want them to love their books and take pride in displaying them. Because Jason and I are so cheap about buying furniture (we went without a full sized couch for four years because we didn't want to spend that much money), we only have a cute little hutch (that I got at a garage sale for $20!) for books. All of the shelves and the whole cupboard section is full of books. The rest of our books, like I said, are floaters, homeless couch surfers, doomed to life among the couch cushions. Anyway, Jason and I have commissioned (I feel so fancy saying that!) a bookshelf for the kids for Christmas! Yippee! We have a friend who is a great woodworker, and he is giving us an awesome deal on a custom, wood bookshelf. I am SO excited to surprise them. Both the boys dread that part of cleaning their room. Their books don't all fit anymore, and that poor, chintzy bookshelf literally cannot handle the pressure.
I am not sure if Connor and Grady will truly appreciate their present at the time... but once they get to put away all the books they get for Christmas and everything fits nicely... they might begin to understand. And, if not, I don't mind being the awful parent that gets my children practical things for Christmas.