food for the soul

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said: There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

I believe this with an unparalleled fierceness.
I tell all parents of young children this is my philosophy of child rearing: First you feed a child with food, then with books, then you worry about whether or not their shoes fit.
If you could see the looks on their faces. They have that initial moment of WTF? but then I see their eyes widen as they begin to understand how this makes some kind of sense.

I believe this principle applies to grownups too.
You ever been to someone’s home and find no books and feel like there is something so completely wrong with that? I don’t trust a person who doesn’t read.
I love to explore what other people have on their shelves.
We all know that someone who has books on the shelf for show, you know damn well that person doesn’t read them, they’re there lined up like little soldiers just to impress.
If you looked at my bookshelves, the majority of the books are either children’s books or biographies. Of course there are other things mixed in, adult fiction and textbooks, even some pretty amazing nonfiction too.

We must eat food to sustain our physical lives.
But books are food too. Soul food.
They feed our imagination. They feed us inspiration. They feed us information. They feed us laughter and love and tears. They feed us fear and loathing. They feed us when food isn’t what we need to ingest.

When Thing 2 was a small girl, we were waiting at the doctors office. I was reading and she was reading. She had just begun to read “proper” books, and was reading her first chapter book. It was the first time I didn’t read to her as we waited somewhere. It was the first time I read my book and she read hers. When the realization washed over me I began to cry.
After a big breath, I said to her: You’ve given yourself the best gift you’ll ever receive.
She looked at me from behind her coke-bottle glasses with confusion. I indicated the book.
She said: You gave me this book.
I said: Yes I did, but you learned to read it. And from now on you’ll be able to read anything you want. What a wonderful gift you gave to yourself!
She thought about this for a moment and then gave that jack-o-lantern smile (She was missing three teeth at the time.) and said: You’re right!

Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 love books. And shoes. They’ve been influenced by my parenting philosophy quite literally. (There’s a trees and two apples and never are they terribly far apart.)
I know that they will pass on their love of books to their children, and their nieces and nephews, and one day, their children’s children.

This quote has been attributed to Stephen King: Books are uniquely portable magic.
And they feed the soul.

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2 thoughts on “food for the soul

  1. Jackie Kennedy was a book-editor, so she knew what she was talking about!
    I visited a friend of my mother’s once and she had no books around. It was weird.

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