Margin Notes: A library of one's own

The implications are clear: Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor. "Our Bare Shelves, Ourselves" (via a wonderful editorial in the NYTs this week)

I've always loved books--from nursery school picture books to elementary school when I read every Babysitter's Club and Nancy Drew I could get my hands on, to the Narnia Series, and rereading My Side of the Mountain, Bridge to Terabithia, Matilda, A Little Princess, and  Wolves of Willoughby Chase so often I've committing most of them to memory. I begged my mom to let me go to Shakespeare camp in the summer (it was a day camp, we put on Shakespearean plays). I worked in a book shop in high school and fell in love with coming of age books like The GiverA Prayer for Owen Meany, Boys Life, and A Separate Peace in my excellent high school English Classes. I took writing classes from lauded authors Jenny Boylan and (amazingly, Pullitzer Prize winner) Richard Russo in college; I learned about recent American history by devouring books like Selma, Lord Selma, The Things They Carried,  (when I continued to work at that little book shop and continued to fall in love with fiction). 

Those seeds were planted by my parents. My mom is an English teacher who's favorite books include Jane Eyre and The Road from Coorain. When we visited the farm where she grew up I plundered her childhood collection of Nancy Drew titles reading them in the back seat on the 10+ hour drive home (yes, I was oblivious to car sickness, somehow). My dad loves nothing more than a James Patterson mystery.

Music, similarly, is something we've loved as a family. My mom directed our church's junior choir (creating subtle little skits she'd act out as we sang so we didn't forget the words to the song), she loved the Dixie Chicks and Gloria Estefan, Bonnie Raitt,  she saw the Jackson Five in concert in college. Dad loved the Doobie Brothers, Duke of Earl, the Beatles, Eric Clapton. 

I feel so lucky that my parents aided and abetted my love for language and music and inspired it. I hope all children have that opportunity. 

I was at a baby shower this weekend and gave four books--Miss Rumphius, Eloise, Madeline, Knuffle Bunny, and Blueberries for Sal (it's a girl so I wanted to do female main characters). I love giving book gifts to children because I know how great those rewards are. And I love love love love reading books to kids when I'm at their parents house for dinner. 

I also support First Book, a charity organization that helps give kids books to own. I learned about it when I was working at Random House and have loved it ever since. During this holiday season I thought I'd spread the word about an organization I love and find really worthy of support.

First Book is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.
With the help of our partners, donors and dedicated volunteers we have provided more than 135 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need. Yet millions of children are still waiting for our help.
Together we can make a difference in children’s lives. Together we can provide new books and critical resources that elevate the quality of education for children in low-income families.

P.S. This WSJ compilation of best books of the year is really lovely--and based on data!


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