What if I can’t raise a reader?

My mum reads every night before bed. Without fail, even after the longest day, even if it’s only a paragraph, she gets cozy under the covers with a book perched on her ribs. Lately, she reads from a Kindle, which she’s insistent I buy, but my materialist side is intent on pages, spines, and margin notes. I’m getting off track. The point is that my mum reads a lot. And, growing up, she read to me every night, took me to the library, and enrolled me in young writer’s camp.

Like my mum, I really want my daughter to be a reader. I’m from a family of readers. Books are the topic at every family dinner, though it mostly consists of us screaming titles across the table. “MIDDLESEX,” an aunt will yell, while everyone else audibly sighs in agreement. I want Joanie to be part of that tradition. I want her to raise her bottle in the air with confidence and say, “but have you guys read The Gruffalo?”

Of course there are a million reasons why reading is good for you, and I won’t bore you with a review. I will however explain the two additional reasons why having a bookworm of a daughter is important to me.

The first being that I like that loud camaraderie my family has achieved over books. Yes it’s abrasive, and no, it doesn’t lend itself to criticism, but by knowing what my family is reading, I can keep tabs on what’s going on in their minds. For instance, I know that if someone’s reading Knausgaard’s My Struggle, that person is feeling heady and perhaps over-analytical. To have an idea of the lens through which a family member is currently seeing the world, and to be able share that lens is a priceless bonding tool. Who doesn’t want that advantage with their kids?

The second reason is that I don’t know how to relate to people who don’t read. Maybe I’m a bit of a snob, (If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’m a huge snob.) but for me, reading is like eating and sleeping and drinking and babbling with Joanie. It’s just something I do without thinking. I believe that if you’re not a reader, you’re missing out on a tradition that’s much older than you are, than Twitter and television are, than silly swiping games are. Reading has been around before screens and it’ll be there after. (I hope. I think.)

I say these things, but of course I’m realistic. I can read out loud and point out all the dogs on all the pages all I want, but Joanie will still be a person complete with her very own agency. She may hate reading. She might be bored by it, or she might find some other way of devouring information, or she may have troubles with the technicalities of words on a page. Sure, there’s something to be said for nurture, but who knows if I’m doing the right thing, or if Joanie even cares. I’m not going to stop trying simply because no one knows what will happen, but I need to be prepared. She’s my daughter, and I’ll figure out a way to communicate with her, if not through books. That being said, I must admit, I’m terrified by the prospect. What if I can’t raise a reader?

To end on a positive note, because I’m hopeful Joanie will end up having some kind of relationship with the written word, given the way she likes to put the pages in her mouth, I have included a list of books that I love reading with my daughter.

  • The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Lousie Loves Art by Kelly Light
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

I’m always looking for new books or to be reminded of old ones, specifically ones with strong female characters. Please please please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Also please note that I am rethinking my love of Shell Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.


Learning to Love a Kitchen

I’ve never liked a kitchen before. When I was a kid it was too adult. When I was a student it was too dirty. When I was single it was ignored. I’ve never been interested in cooking. It’s a necessity not a joy. Doing the dishes is my least favourite chore. I hate the simultaneous dry and wet feelings between my fingers and the damp mildew smell of the sponge. I have never been fond of the kitchen.

However, since Joanie learned to sit up in a high chair my hatred for the room has subsided. The living room is no longer the hub of the house. Most of the living is done in the kitchen. It’s where I eat supper with my family, bake muffins for breakfast, and sing the ABC’s loud over the sound of the blender. But the kitchen is no longer solely for cooking. It has become my office with its bright south facing window and expansive table on which I spread all my papers and write this very blog. It’s also where I play tug-of-war with my dog, pace back and forth while arguing on the phone with my internet provider and laugh over coffee and gossip with my friends. It’s a place of noise. All day I alternate the sounds of news radio, NPR, Hall & Oates, dishes clanking about, dogs barking, and singing. Oh so much singing. I’m sure my neighbours love to hear me sing:

Oh, they built the ship Titanic

To sail the ocean blue,

And they thought the had a ship

That the water wouldn’t go through,

But the Good Lord raised his hand

Said that ship would never land.

It was sa-ad when the gre-eat ship went down.

And other such morbid tunes from my girl-scout days.

One of the first conversations Eric and I had after we decided to have Joanie was about dinner time. We made a pact that supper would always be served at the table and away from the television. Even if we have nothing to say to each other because we’ve spent the whole day lying about, we will at least make it to the table. Unless dinner’s pizza. Pizza should always be eaten with television.

We’re by no means traditional. We’re not married, we don’t attend any sort of church and our daughter was born two weeks before the one year anniversary of our first date, if you could call it a date. It was more like me stumbling to his house after the bar to drink absinthe then cabbing home at 4 am with the nicest lady driver I. But there are some traditions that appeal to me, the big one being family dinner in the kitchen, that noisy, messy, colourful place full of sunlight and smells.

When I was pregnant I spent a lot of time on the couch. Eric likes to joke about how I beat Netflix. There was nothing it could suggest that I hadn’t already seen. Things were sloth-like but cozy as I knit myself in a stagnant wooly ball. Since Joanie’s birth our lives have burst into activity. The living is no longer done in the room of its namesake but in the kitchen. Our living room is where we crash from all the living we do in the kitchen.