I didn’t read to my daughter when she was in the womb, but it wasn’t long after she was born that I started reading to her.
Some of the first books she heard were The Catcher in the Rye, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, because they’re some of my favorites. Plus, it’s never too early to know about phonies, and the fact that sometimes the smallest, strangest person can make the biggest difference in your life.
The girl is six now, and reading is still a major pastime of ours. Through the years we’ve been able to introduce a few classics–Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz–and while it’s hard to wait on some of our favorites, we know it’s important to.
She’s afraid of people in masks, for instance, so the Star Wars movies are flat out. I’m ready to read her Harry Potter but I don’t want to ruin it for her if she thinks it’s scary.
It’s a delicate thing, introducing things we love to our kids. We want them to love those things, too, so we have to be careful with how we do it. Here are some suggestions.
Hide It in Plain Sight
My well-worn childhood copy of The Phantom Tollbooth sat on the shelf in the girl’s room for more than a year before she discovered it. But I put it there in the hope that one day it would interest her enough to pull it out.
We read it when she was about five and a half, and while I know she didn’t understand it all, she loved it, to the point of taking it to show and tell at school one day and introducing it to her grammie.
Talk About It
I was a little worried when she wanted to read The Wizard of Oz at about the same time we read The Phantom Tollbooth because I remember being scared of the flying monkeys when I was older than she.
So I told her about them, and she said she had seen a Wizard of Oz show at daycare (I assume maybe a cartoon?) and she thought the flying monkeys were funny. It turned out the monkeys were just fine (we’ve since moved on to other books in the series).
Try a Graphic Novel or Abridged Version
Sometimes looking at a story in a different form can be fun for kids and adults alike. We started (unintentionally) with abridged versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Secret Garden, and both got her interested in wanting to read the longer versions.
She recently picked up a graphic novel of one of the Wizard of Oz stories, which we’re using as an introduction to that form of storytelling. So far so good.
Read It to Them
Even when kids are old enough to read for themselves, there’s something really special about reading those books that were important to you with your kids for the first time. Whenever we decide it’s time for Harry Potter and The Hobbit, you can bet we’ll be reading them as a family.
Because who we were with when we discovered them was often what made those books, movies, and experiences important to us in the first place, right?
How have you dealt with introducing and sharing favorite things from your childhood with your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts.