With Mother's Day just around the corner, Dog-Eared Books wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the magic of the books and stories that parents read to their little ones. The magic isn't just in the stories, it's in the little hands and eyes that get to know the characters like a new friend.
My dear, do you know
How a long time ago,
Two poor little children,
Whose names I don’t know,
Were stolen away
On a fine summer’s day,
And left in a wood
I’ve heard people say…
I have just typed out this old poem “The Babes in the Wood” from memory. I can still hear my
Mom’s contralto voice reading it to me as my tiny hands smoothed the colour illustrations of
our 1968 hardcover edition of Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry. Mom and I still sometimes
recite it together. Perhaps a frightening tale to share with a four-year- old child before bed. But I remember pleading for her to read it again and again…and Mom obliging, with pleasure, delivering its verses like a trained voice actor, every time.
I have other such poems in my head: We built a ship upon the stairs/All made of the back-
bedroom chairs…(A Good Play, by Robert Louis Stevenson), proof that my deep love of
reading and admiration for verse grew from the books my parents shared with me from my earliest days.
I was flying solo as a reader by age seven, devouring mysteries by Keene, Dixon, and Kenny (all of which are, interestingly, pseudonyms); then fantasy and sci-fi books by Lewis, Tolkien, Bradbury, and Asimov; and, later, the short stories, novels and poems of Munro, Atwood, Findley, and Shields. Mom and I could have used a wheelbarrow to carry our two weeks’ worth of books home from the library in summertime.
I should add that my Dad also read to me, and shared his own love of books. He even got me
reading a Bush Pilot series one summer. But this, of course, is a Mother’s Day blog. Once I became a mom, I knew no other way. I read to our first child from his very first days. Goodnight Moon, Love You Forever, Night Cars, Alligator Pie…My son’s ability to concentrate, and his attention to detail fascinated me. Time with him, sharing books, was heaven on earth. I soon discovered that the number and diversity of books available to young readers had exploded since I was a kid. He was drawn to the timeworn Adventures of Tintin and Asterix, but also to today’s Captain Underpants. That was the fun of it! He took the lead and I went along for the ride. When we experienced the entire Harry Potter series together, it captivated us both, and marked the pinnacle of our reading relationship.
With my daughter, the road has been different, but equally wonderful. We found that the books I’d loved as a young girl didn’t always resonate for her. But we finally found our way with the
modern classic Penderwicks series about four sisters and their absent-minded professor/father.
Our love of reading together continued to flourish when we joined a mother and daughter book
club. With all of the club’s daughters now well into high school, we continue to meet. Sometimes, I still even read aloud to her while she completes an art project to help ensure that we get our book club books read on time.
Today, with my Maryn O’Brien Series, I write for the young reader inside of me and for the young people who are just like her. I marvel that I still read with my sixteen-year- old daughter and I get shivers when I see my eighteen-year- old son buying books (new or used) to carry with him onto the pool deck to read at meets. He is now pursuing a career in writing.
And, in case you were wondering how “The Babes in the Woods” poem ends…
And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
They’d sing them this song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Poor babes in the wood!
Now don’t you remember
The babes in the wood?’
I do remember!
Tanis Browning-Shelp lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband Andy, and their teen-aged son and daughter. A spirited, active family, they support one another in achieving their individual goals. That’s how Maryn O’Brien came to life.