My palms were sweaty, and I cleared my throat. It had seemed like a good idea, but now that the moment was here I felt the magnitude of the situation. Two people who had shaped how I view the world, who had impacted me so much, were about to meet. And I was the one who was going to introduce them.
And then I hit play on the audiobook.
Then my oldest daughter met one of my oldest friends.
Books are alive to me. Every summer as a preteen and teen, books were my entire world. I could read for 6-8 hours a day, finishing at least five hefty novels a week. These days, I’m excited to finish five books a year! But the stories and characters from 20 years ago are still alive to me. Ramona, Laura Ingalls and Mary Lennox were early repeat visitors, then onto Jo March, Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett.
Though reading aloud is wonderful at any age, I realized when my oldest turned 6 that she had the attention span and maturity to tackle some of the classic stories. So through audiobooks, reading aloud, and, yes, even movies, the great introductions have started. The timeless characters have been introduced to a new generation.
Why is this important? It’s more than just nostalgia on my part.Reading aloud and audiobooks of the heftier classics allow introductions of topics that aren’t found in current books on the shelves. Junie B. Jones may be funny and cover topics like a new sibling or being sassy to someone who is mean to you, but life is bigger than that.
The classics are timeless for a reason. Little House on the Prairie teaches about perseverance through truly hard circumstances and happiness despite few possessions. The Secret Garden provides a picture of the beauty that can grow when we tackle the ugliness inside ourselves. Anne of Green Gables celebrates imagination, friendship and personal growth.
Versions of the classics can be introduced at an even earlier age. A series of board books called “BabyLit” takes story lines from major classics and makes them cute and educational for the very smallest book-lovers. For example, BabyLit Pride and Prejudice is a counting book, starting “One English village. Two rich gentlemen…” Usborne has several abridged versions of the classics with beautiful illustrations.
Someday my kids will be old enough to tackle these stories on their own and forge their own relationships with these characters, but I want to establish a familiarity with these names and story lines. It may be trendy to love Hogwarts, but the beloved places that have already stood the test of time are Narnia, Netherfield and Green Gables. There is room on our bookshelves for all.
There are many controversial subjects in parenting, but I haven’t found that encouraging the love of books is one of them. It’s a privilege and joy to pass on these characters and stories to the next generation, even when they’re little. Early introductions that will hopefully last a lifetime.