Wednesday, April 2, 2014

International Children's Book Day

The radio announcer commented this morning on my drive to work that April 2 is “International Children’s Book Day.” Even though I have never heard of this holiday, I am willing to take off work to celebrate it! (But my boss probably would not be as eager to commemorate this special day, so I will forge ahead with my day on the job and just celebrate on the inside.)

Such a day does bring a nostalgia for some of the books I loved as a child. I am not certain I can name a favorite, but here are the ones that come to mind ~

Earliest memories are of the Little Golden Books (yes, they had those in my day!). Cinderella was a favorite; what little girl doesn’t dream of getting to dance with a Prince who comes back to claim her from her life of misery? When my daughter went for summer visits with my parents, she would do household chores to help out. She and her Maw-Maw had a joke about the times she swept the porch and thought she was Cinderella.

Little Red Riding Hood was another Golden Book favorite of mine . . . although I could never fathom how Red could have possibly not seen that the wolf in her grandmother’s bed did not resemble her Granny in the slightest. Even to a child, that was obvious. I always assured myself that if that happened to me, I would know the difference!

I also had Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the Poky Little Puppy. But one of my favorites was The Three Little Kittens. My parents and sister read me the books until I learned to read on my own, and the images in those books are seared into my memory.

As a child, I inherited beautifully illustrated copies of Little Brown Koko and Little Black Sambo. I never knew they were not politically correct. I just knew that I loved the sweet innocent face of Koko, and could always identify with his exploits of mischief. Reading the book now, I can understand that the stereotypes of Black people in the book would be offensive, but at the time, I just loved it as a sweet, endearing story with memorable characters.

I don’t remember as much about the Sambo book except when the tigers chased each other around the tree until they melted into a river of butter. As with many of the books for children, this one had some good character-building lessons.

We didn’t own a lot of books, so I read over and over the ones we did have. As I grew older, I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women many times. My sister owned several Nancy Drew books, and I read those multiple times as well.

My aunt Velma was once a school teacher in a one-room school in the Texas Panhandle as well as eastern New Mexico. She had accumulated some children’s books that she gave us, so I read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew along with some other classic children’s novels . . . again, reading them over and over because of my voracious appetite for words!

When I grew into a teenager, my aunt Millie from down the street invited me to come to her house anytime to “borrow” books from her shelf. So I read stories of Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I flying ace, and other books about historical events. Until this time, I had to re-read our books at home or check them out from the school library. But in my teenage years we got a community public library, and I became a frequent visitor.

When my own children were born, books were some of their first possessions. We read to them and bought them not only the Golden Books but Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry tales. They, too, grew up loving books. They were good students, which I attribute largely to becoming good readers at an early age.

Even today, I love reading even more than I love writing. I could probably count on one hand the number of days in the past year when I have not read at least a few pages from whatever book (or e-book) is close by. Reading books, for me, is like breathing. It is just something I do without planning to, and I feel deprived if I haven’t read something for pleasure that day. It is how I relax; it is my method of self-soothing.

Thus I celebrate today for two reasons: (1) today commemorates my Dad’s 103rd birthday and (2) today is Children’s Book Day, which reminds me of where so many of us had our beginnings. We are who we are today, partly because we learned to love reading at an early age. Parents and grandparents, go read a book to a child! You will be making an investment in something that has no price tag.