The Wisdom of Anna Quindlen

"Reading has always been life unwrapped to me, a way of understanding the world and understanding myself through both the unknown and the everyday. If being a parent consists often of passing along chunks of ourselves to unwitting--often unwilling--recipients, then books are, for me, one of the simplest and most surefire ways of doing that. I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

Oh, Anna Quindlen. She's my new idol because she sums up so perfectly everything I want to say.

I'm reading a collection of her essays called Thinking Out Loud and my favorite one, entitled "Enough Bookshelves," is about Quindlen passing on her love of reading to her three children. The essay begins when her oldest child finishes The Phantom Tollbooth and the excitement both mother and son feel over the accomplishment.

When I think about my own kids (those adorable little munchkins), I often think about introducing them to the books I cherished when I was growing up: Matilda, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, A Wrinkle in Time, Maniac Magee. And even silly books like My Teacher is an Alien and Beetles, Lightly Toasted and Dear God, It's Me Margaret (only for the girls though). I hope my kids love reading so much that they'll pick Harry Potter any day over Sponge Bob Squarepants or, heaven forbid, "That's So Raven."

Isn't it amazing how little children love books? When I was a summer camp counselor at Norwood School, the kids I watched over just adored being read to. All the preschool classrooms were filled with books and we had an entire class dedicated to reading. Even when all the noisy three and four year-olds were gathered together for a combined storytime, there was an incredible hush that silenced their little lips when a teacher opened a book and read, "The night Max wore his wolf suit..."

Over fifty kids, who five minutes earlier were running around and creating chaos, sat spellbound from cover to cover. Even tow-headed Tyler, who made me have a nervous breakdown because he refused to do anything I told him to, would sit quietly for a few minutes if you read him a book.

At what age do we turn away from reading? By middle school, it seems that most kids only read the books assigned to them in English class. No more long trips to the library. No more bedtime stories. No more books for fun. The kids who still like to read are considered nerds or smarty-pants. That's sad, isn't it?

Maybe we just love being read to. Perhaps there is a magical element in the art of storytelling--the soothing voice of the narrator and how she takes us on a journey to Timbuktu, Neverland, or Jupiter even. Perhaps those of us who still love to read have been able to turn this outer-narrator into our own inner-narrator. We become the voice that takes us to far-off places or different places in time. Or perhaps those who have lost this passion have merely forgotten their love of books--a love that just needs a little bit of rekindling.