Most dedicated readers start young: if you grow up with books, you keep reading. Some of us were lucky enough to have parents who bought books for us or introduced us to our local libraries–or did both, the best of all possible (book) worlds.
I grew up in Tenafly, NJ, a small town not too far from New York City. The Tenafly Public Library, at the far end of Main Street, was a little bungalow that had once been someone’s home. That was comforting, because you still felt the homeyness of it even though the rooms had been emptied, fitted with bookshelves, and gradually filled with books.
The windows of the TPL were ordinary windows; the wood floors were scuffed and dusty; the air was hot in summer and chilly in winter. It was a place not in the least intimidating to a child; instead, you had the sense that when you went to the library you were visiting an old friend.
The Tenafly Public Library was part of my life from the day I was old enough to read simple books and to print my name on a little yellow children’s library card. Second grade, I think. By then I was also old enough to ride my bike to the library, a fifteen-minute trip, and go straight to the Children’s Room to return my already-read books and search for five new ones to check out and put in my bicycle basket to take home.
So much pleasure–choosing books, anticipating a new story, then reading. And there was double-delight in almost every book: words and pictures.
My young parents didn’t have a lot of money, but books were high on their must-have list. They bought books for me and my two brothers, and they encouraged me to join a book-buying program that my normally unprogressive elementary school offered. So I had books of my own, lots of them: The Boxcar Children, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Madeline, Babar the Elephant, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, Make Way for Ducklings, and Flood Friday, to name a few.
Kiki Dances convinced me that I could be a ballerina–though that didn’t happen. And Now Miguel made me yearn to be part of a large Mexican-American sheepherding family. Also not in the cards.
The Hundred Dresses and The Color Kittens were the books that helped me imagine being an artist–which I was, for many years. In the end I’ve become a writer, and I blame it on a childhood abundant with books.
Quite a few of those books are cited in an impressive article-cum-list-of-children’s-books called “Old, But Not Forgotten” compiled by Carrie Silberman, Head of Children’s Library at the New York Society Library. (Don’t miss the secondary link to an even longer list of children’s books.)
Ms. Silberman writes, “For many of us, nothing evokes more vivid memories of childhood than revisiting a favorite book…If any of these titles are new to you, I invite you to pick one up and experience the magic of a great old-fashioned tale. Enjoy…”
Please share the titles of your favorite children’s books in the LEAVE A REPLY section below.
SIDEBAR: The New York Society Library is one of my recommended links. It’s a private library, but anyone can become a member. Be warned, though: that library is addictive.
FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast
Argo Bookshop, Montreal, Quebec
Books of Wonder, New York, NY
Let’s Play Books, Emmaus, PA