My love of books starts with my grandmother. She was a librarian and would subscribe me to book-of-the-month clubs (Sweet Pickles and Berenstein Bears when I was first learning words and then the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, Encyclopedia Brown, and Choose Your Own Adventure later). It was encouraged by my mother who would take me to the library on Saturdays and leave me alone to explore the stacks with little direction. Whatever books I fancied, I could check out. As I got older, my allowances were spent on books: comic books and Stephen King novels and The Babysitter’s Club. My weekends followed common patterns: chores, basketball, books. Once my parents had thought I was missing when, in fact, I had come home from a friend’s house early to read a book I was engrossed in and fell asleep in my room with those words and characters.
I thought about how parents might nudge us toward or away from reading with small choices yesterday. A young boy was in the books section of Target, impatiently waiting for his mother to see the book he wanted. It was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
“That’s a big book,” his mom said. He was discouraged. He pleaded. She suggested a far less exciting book. His reading skills were clearly beyond it. He tried to explain, but she was uninterested and moved to leave the books section with no books at all. As his dad arrived and distracted his mother, I watched him slide the blue covered book with the boy wizard into their cart.
The experience of reading Little Fires Everywhere reminded me of how I read as a child. I would lose all track of time. I nearly missed my bus stop two days in a row because my mind had departed to Shaker Heights. I took lunches further away from the office to not be interrupted while I hung out with Pearl and Mia and Izzy and Mrs. Richardson. It was that kind of read. You should find some time for it.
It’s a story about mothers and their choices. Today is Mother’s Day, and I’m thinking about my mothers and their choices. I would have never been discouraged in a store aisle about entering a world too grown with words too big, pages too long, and binding too thick. In fact, Phyllis or Pauline would’ve likely put it in my hands before I even knew to look.
The little fires they sparked still burn today.