Trying to Pass On Favorite Books to the Next Generation

When I was, oh, 15 or so, I very intentionally packed away all the children’s books I’d kept, with the thought that I would pass them on to my children when I had them. The box of books got moved around for a while, and as of right now, the books are sitting on the bookcase in the basement, which is sort of a catchall for books from my spouse’s and my childhoods.

(His are mostly old joke books and scouting-related things, some space and science books, things like that. All our yearbooks are down there. Mine are a lot of Star Trek novels, manga, and old scifi that, for the most part, I never got around to reading.)

(Some day.)

Anyway, I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way for Parents, which is about instilling creative principles in your children, and there was a section about reading to your kids, which for us has fallen apart in the last few months, partially because of my spouse’s medical issues, and partially because the bigger, mobile one has started reading on his own in his bed, and so is less interested in me reading to him.

(Tragic, I tell you what.)

Anyway, I was reminded that it is good to read books to your children, and I also remembered that I’d tucked these books away for said children, and so I went downstairs to see what I’d kept.

(The other thing is that we’ve been reading library books, and the library finally re-opened and wanted all their books back, and so I had to give them back and now we have nothing. And it sounded like a good idea to read books we owned, so when it took us three months to get through a book, the library wasn’t grumpy about it.)

I kept a lot. More than I thought I had. Pretty much every Bruce Coville book ever. Ones I had to read for school like Maniac Magee or Caddie Woodlawn. A bunch of fantasy books, including ones more often thought of as adult books (like Gulliver’s Travels).

Anyway. It was a lot. And so I picked out…six or so and took them upstairs to see which ones the small, mobile ones wanted to read.

(I took a variety–Gulliver’s Travels; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Mr. Popper’s Penguins; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Sideways Stories from Wayside School; and The Castle in the Attic.)

And the bigger, mobile one was basically like, I don’t want to read any of those, leave me alone.

Which was sad! But I rallied and asked the smaller, mobile one, who picked The Castle in the Attic even though I was sure she’d go for the penguins.

(She says she doesn’t like penguins.)

And then I made the big one come listen anyway even though he whined the whole time.

While I understand that my small, mobile ones are not me and have different interests than me, and hence may not like the same things as me in the long run, I will say that the bigger, mobile one is very similar to me in personality and interests, and has to this point liked the books we have read together (which includes things like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Phantom Tollbooth, as well as classics like The Wizard of Oz). And when I talked to him later, he said he made a fuss because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to read the new Dog Man before his dad made him turn off the lights and go to sleep.

So we’ll see how it goes in the long run.

Will I be disappointed if the small, mobile ones don’t want to read the books I saved for them? I mean, yeah, to some extent. But to be fair, I haven’t read most of these books in at least twenty years either, and I don’t really remember most of them. And there’s been tons of great children’s books that have come out since then, and there’s only so many books you can get through.

And there’s something to be said about the pleasure of wandering through the library and picking out whatever books appeal to you, and I don’t want to rob them of that.

I don’t think I read much of what my parents wanted me to when I was little either; after my dad gave me The Old Man and the Sea when I was eight I pretty much wrote off all his suggestions, and I can’t remember my mom ever giving me any. Mostly I just explored on my own and my parents let me read whatever.

(I remember sneaking in and stealing my mom’s copy of Interview with the Vampire because she wouldn’t let me read it. And also one of Dick Francis’s mysteries because both my parents loved him.)

What do you think, squiders? Is it worth it to pass on your favorites to the next generation?

(To be fair, I saved like, 25 books. Maybe if I’d saved only ten or something, or five…)

2 responses to this post.

  1. I remember being in a supermarket, aged 8, and there was a Pippi Longstocking book on special offer. My mum was like “Oh I used to love Pippi Longstocking! I’ll buy it for you.” I thought that was very presumptuous of her to assume I’d like her old-fashioned book. But of course I adored it and Pippi became my personal hero!

    Reply

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