Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 28, 2010

Looking Back at Love and Reading

On the second day of my children’s literature class, I asked students to write about a time when they first loved to read. For some, early reading was connected to the comfort of a mother’s arm around them, or, for one, hearing a story before being folded into a yellow blanket “like a little burrito.” Several wrote about parents taking turns, and their different voices becoming associated with different books. One mentioned her dad sitting between the sisters so they could get a view of the pictures, but also to keep them apart for a few unsquabbling minutes. Another wrote that her mom should “win a Nobel Peace Prize for reading ‘Chicka Chicka Boom Boom’ several hundred times without complaint.”

As someone who would often annoy my daughter by checking the publisher before reading the story, I love the dad who “could even make the inside cover and introductory pages exciting, belting aloud the publisher’s name and signaling us to yell out what city it was from. ‘Harper Collins Publishers…. NEW YORK’ we would all scream.”

Some remembered being intent on cracking a mystery an older sibling knew. One tried to look good by memorizing a Dr. Seuss book, before being gently sent back to sound out the letters. One liked to imitate the way her dad turned the pages of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and “would bend the books back and forth just to listen to the sound, pretending that it was the sound of hundred-year-old paper.”

One considered the existential questions that haunted her while hearing Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit; she tried to understand what was real and figure out how she could possibly love her own stuffed bunny more than she already did. For others reading pleasure came later and on their own – with Greek myths or Harry Potter. One student wrote her ENTIRE paper in the voice of Junie B. Jones, which CRACKED ME UP.

I was touched by the grandmother who stopped by with a book she’d picked up a garage sale or somewhere before hospital visits with her husband; one gift was Black Beauty, which the granddaughter read over and over, finding “that even though the words on the page were the same, and as far as I could tell, I was still the same, somehow I wasn’t reading the same story.” Several called up the mix of pride, frustration, and jealousy of their parents when their children sometimes chose books over company, with one mentioning how she now, as an English major, is a bit jealous, too, of her old self who could get lost in words on a page.



  1. oh, how wonderful!

  2. this was such an awesome post!
    My first love of books came when my Grandmother gave me a gently used, complete set of The Bobbsey Twins. To have that many books at one time, and for them to be MINE . . . it was such a cool moment.

  3. Interesting. Is this class for college students are adults/post-college?
    I’m very curious to hear what you will be reading in your class!

  4. Oh, I want to read the Junie B. Jones paper! I love those books as an adult & think I would have loved them, too, if they’d been around when I was young. 🙂

  5. Love these! I used to even take my books on hikes with me…which must have frustrated my parents quite a bit.

  6. *contented sigh*
    Lovely post, Jeannine. I was brought back to my exquisite memories of how reading was my refuge. I loved it almost more than anything else. Still do. 🙂

  7. These memories are all so wonderful and I wanted to claim some as my own. Poignant in places and funny in others. What a great thing that you archived them all here in this post! Thank you for sharing.

  8. What great stories. I remember my father acting out Dr. Seuss.I just got Charlotte’s Web in Spanish–since I must have read it a zillion times to my kids, I think I’ll make it through despite not being that good in the language, simply because I probably know a lot of it by memory.

  9. We are lucky to have students who remind us of important things.

  10. Tami, I’m glad it trigged a memory. There really is something about owning books. I hope you still have those Bobbsey Twins somewhere! One year a student brought in her old copy of Little Women, which had her name, her mom’s name, and her grandma’s names. What a treasure!

  11. Sheela, this is mostly college seniors. If you click on the links under my name on “teaching children’s lit” you can see some other classes I taught: we read “classics” including Charlotte’s We, Alice in Wonderland, Secret Garden, Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, etc. It is fun!

  12. Well I was never that big a fan though I read them aloud to Em, but even I loved this paper. Junie is funny to me in small doses. So you would have REALLY loved the paper.

  13. Picturing you with face in book while they pull you back from a cliff….

  14. Yes, me, too… it is funny, though, how once something becomes a requirement… you just want to read something that is not.

  15. Tracy, I’m glad the memories took you places. They made me remember books I’d forgotten, and so many varied moments, as you say.

  16. Acting out Dr. Seuss! Well, that must have been lively. I hope the Spanish Charlotte’s Web goes well. Em has been talking about getting Twilight in French, also figuring she has read it enough times to help her through the language.

  17. My Mom still has the books . . .
    Wow, what a treasure that Little Women book is. Beloved by so many generations . . .

  18. So lovely. Hearing about the dads at bedtime reminded me of I how the three of us use to crowd onto one bed and lean all over each other to see the pictures. And how I used to stare and stare at the photographs in Zochert’s Laura, trying to connect the woman in them with the Laura Ingalls I knew from the books.
    (Would you believe I did the same thing with the pictures of Marie Curie in the biography by her daughter? I was utterly fascinated by the that book when I was 10 and 11 — at least the part of it that talked about her childhood. So you can just imagine how much I’m looking forward to Borrowed Names.)

  19. I knew you were interested in these women, but didn’t know how far back that biographical fascination went. That really makes me smile. And the staring at the pictures: that’s so much a part of my writing process! I’m touched to share that with the young inquisitive Amy.

  20. Thank you, Jeannine! I confess my interest is that some day I’d like to teach a similar kind of class…but I have no idea where to start, except to dream about what I’d like to do and studying up on my own at first. I’m going to check your list now…

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