GAYS MILLS - In my former life, before I had a grabby toddler I really liked to read.
When I lived in Madison, I had a car for a period of time. Eventually. the massive boat up and died on me. This resulted in my daily commute across town being done by bus.
I wasn’t really with the times and didn’t have a smart phone or ear buds at the time, so I would scan the shelves at the local thrift store for cheap books that would keep my interest during the nearly hour ride.
After awhile though, I discovered the glorious little box in my neighbor hood that was the ‘Little Free Library.’
Lucky for me, I lived in a hip neighborhood full of young people who also enjoyed reading novels and biographies about interesting characters. And at least once a week, I was greeted by a new and interesting selection.
Pre-Little Free Libraries, biographies weren’t something I would have usually picked up.
My aunt, who is also a bookworm, is actually a nearly exclusive biography reader and has always sung their praises.
I at one point tried to read one that she gave me about the silent movie star Mary Pickford, but really just couldn’t get into it.
However, digging in the small box on Jennifer Street, I was greeted by all sorts of stories of modern musicians and surprisingly, comedians.
Three of the most memorable ones I read were Lisa Lampanelli, Tina Fey and oddly enough the shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
Each told very different and surprising stories about their life as they remembered them. All with the common themes of struggles as up-and-coming stars.
Lampanelli struggled with a food addiction, Fey clawed her way to the top of the Saturday Night Live scene and Manson, well, if you know anything about him you can only imagine. Each story was quite captivating and I blasted through the pages.
My mom was always a reader as well, which is probably where I got my habit. She could often be heard saying, “I can’t deny my kids food or books.”
Her books of choice were frequently medical mystery novels by the author Robin Cook or the same tattered dog-eared copy of ‘Cider House Rules.’
Once I had a baby though, it seemed like all the spare time I had to get some reading in was long since forgotten.
I was determined however to mold his squishy young mind into being a book lover as well. During our baby shower, we even went as far as requesting people bring a book with a personal message written in it in lieu of the traditional card.
The request was wildly successful and Thatcher had an excellent collection even before he was born.
Initially, upon his birth I would read diligently to him every single day. He would lie there making contented sounds and work hard to focus his blurry grey eyes on me, as I read beautifully illustrated high quality children’s books to him.
Though as he started to develop his own personality and motor skills, he preferred these fancy books with their hard covers and dust jackets far less. In turn, he delighted in crinkly books with bright illustrations or board books that featured other babies dressed up like animals.
We continued to read diligently to him however, and I’d say it has paid off ten fold.
His interest in screens or devices is very low. Occasionally he will sit through about 10 to 15 (if we’re lucky) minutes of a children’s movie, while we try to get something done quickly. Or his grandma will play a video of ocean creatures set to soft classical music to help him fall asleep.
But more often than not, when he just wants to relax and hang out with mom and dad, he will pick up one of his favorite books.
Chasca and I have grown tired of his favorite selections, which include ‘Time for Bed’ by Mem Fox or ‘Where is Mickey’s red ball?’ both of which we can recite from memory upon request.
We tried to pull a fast one on the curly-haired toddler and hide them in the bottom of a stack in the bedroom. Opting for ‘Mister Dog’ by Margaret Wise Brown or the ‘Teddy Bears Picnic,’ based off of the song by Jerry Garcia and David Grisham.
The wild little beast was not to be fooled however. He ripped the books from our grubby paws with a squeal of distain and rolled off of the bed in a flash. He marched his little feet over to the stack and began furiously sliding the board books one by one, raining them onto the floor.
With a delighted coo he picked up ‘Time for Bed’ and lifted it proudly. “THAAAAAT!” he exclaimed before he walked over and bopped his dad in the nose with it.
Defeated, Chasca picked up the book as the baby climbed aboard readying himself for his story. He tucked himself gingerly in the crook of his dad’s arm and again exclaimed “THAAAAT!” as he wagged his little finger at the book.
Before Chasca could even crack open the thick cardboard pages I began to recite the singsong tale.
“Time for bed little mouse little mouse, darkness is falling all over the house.” My toddler looked extremely satisfied.
On one hand, I’m really happy he prefers story time over screen time but on the other hand, for our sanity I think we need to get a little more creative with hiding that book and convincing him that any one of the other 100 books he has are just as good.