Literary Indoctrination

We can have significant parental influence on our children's lives, and I choose to make my biggest push all about books.

For over eleven years now, I've been called mommy. Sometimes it's mama, and one of the three has branded me with the oddly repetitive mom-mom. With that title comes great influence. Sure, sure, it often feels like they're not listening to a word I say, but in my heart I know that for the things that really matter, they're taking it all in.

Know what is on top of that list for me? No doubt about it, it's my love of books.

I was the parent reading "Winnie the Pooh" aloud to my big pregnant belly. I read Washington Post articles out loud to myself when holding my baby in my arms just so that he could hear something narrated, regardless of the text. Each of my children were, at one point, two-month-olds who would stare up at the pages of the board books I read them every day as we lay on our backs on the floor.

At three, five and eleven, they all continue to make books a part of their daily lives. Voracious is the perfect word to describe my oldest's reading habits, from novels to comic books to Time magazine. The younger two are regular library patrons and have multiple shelves in their bedrooms bursting with incredible picture books. In these ways, I love that my lifelong favorite activity has been successfully passed down to my offspring.

As a yearly highlight in our shared love of literature, we're incredibly lucky to live in the District of Columbia metro area. If you haven't heard of the Library of Congress sponsored National Book Festival, then let me give you the skinny: the National Mall, a variety of pavilion tents, and a ton of authors and illustrators across all genres talking to book lovers. There you have it.

Really, it's my favorite day of the entire year. (And that's saying something that it even outranks my birthday, of which I am a huge fan.) I have had some incredible experiences at this event over the years, from listening to authors' talks all the way to unforgettable one-on-one conversations with some of my all-time favorites. And I could do some serious name dropping here: Wally Lamb, Sue Monk Kidd, Eric Carle, Mo Willems.

For now at least, it's only my oldest child who has any real interest in listening to the authors' talks, while the younger two are more interested in running around on the grass and maybe, just maybe, standing close enough to one of the PBS Kids characters to get a photo. For the most part, we walk around, buy a few books, and listen to bits and pieces of talks, or split up so that my son and I can stay for entire sessions.

They're not yet interested in listening to authors talk about their writing processes or sharing life stories of how they came to be authors in the first place. But I am fully confident that even my younger children leave the National Book Festival each year with an important message once again reiterated: reading equals joy. 

To see the huge numbers of people who come out to the festival each year is reassuring in this time when it often seems that reading is a dying hobby. I've been to this event for many years, in 90 degree heat and in the pouring rain, and the crowds are always there. These are my people, folks who descend on where the authors are.

I hope that the National Book Festival continues on for many, many years to come. I have a long future of parenting (and hopefully grandparenting!) that must include visits to this avid-reader-heaven. Of all the loves I can instill in my children, the love of reading ranks the highest in my book.

Dawn may reside in Greenbelt in real life, but online she lives at her blog, my thoughts exactly, where she chatters on about her funny kids, her NPR obsession and plenty of other randomness. She can also be found at 5 Minutes for Books, reviewing everything from contemporary fiction to children's literature, and at The DC Moms, surrounded by incredibly talented local writers.

Gretchen Schock September 29, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I love this Dawn. As a fellow book loving mom, I salute you. Reading will forever be the greatest tradition of our time.
Dawn Mooney October 04, 2011 at 12:24 AM
I know you deserve the salute as much as I do, Gretchen!! Here's to reading with our kids!! :)
Polly October 08, 2011 at 03:17 PM
I remember reading almost non-stop to my son from the time he was conceived. He loved books! All kinds of books. Then one day in his teens he'd decided he'd had enough and would begrudgingly only read what he had to. Then suddenly around the age of 20 he started reading books again for enjoyment. He scoured thrift stores, flea markets etc., and amassed quite a diverse library. I'm happy to report that now 25 he's still a voracious reader.
Dawn Mooney October 09, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Polly, how fabulous to hear! It's interesting how some kids lose that interest during adolescence, but it's wonderful to hear that the love for reading came back to your son! Thanks for sharing your story!


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