From the moment I first found out Jen was pregnant with Jacobi, one of the first baby-related things I noticed was I began to think of all the stuff. Well, not just think about it, I actually saw it. Before Jen and I made the decision to have a baby, I would pass by the baby stuff in malls and online, thinking little of it. But as soon as Jen got pregnant, I began to see it all, as if for the first time. Blankets and clothing and toys and furniture…and of course, books.
The books were immediately important to me. Why? Books were an important part of my own childhood. My parents were both readers, and from as early as I can remember, both of my parents read to me. As I got older and began to figure out the writing thing, books played an even more important role, both as a goal and as inspiration for writing. So right off the bat, before I even knew if my baby would be a Jacobi or a Jacoba, I knew books would be an important part of both my baby’s life and my own.
Of course, I should mention that the first books I ever really bought “for” Jacobi were all the parenting books. I read these not for inspiration so much as I did to mellow out the terror I was feeling as I stepped off the cliff and onto the cloud of parenting. But as Jacobi’s arrival came closer, I began to see the new world of reading spreading out before me.
Some of the first books we received came from the baby showers. At the time, I remember getting Goodnight Moon and a Susan Boynton book called Blue Hat, Green Hat. Flipping through the pages, I was wondering how I would get through the early years of reading. I wanted to read Jacobi the epic stories I loved so much. I wanted to find a children’s book version of Lord of the Rings or The Dark Tower. But no, I would be stuck reading him Blue Hat, Green Hat because honestly, I didn’t know what to expect as a parent. This was why I didn’t go out and buy my own books. I was trusting the people around me that the books we received as gifts were good ones.
At first, Jacobi’s book collection started small. The first day we brought him home from the hospital, right around the time we put him down to sleep at night, I remember looking for a book to read him. He could barely open his eyes, but all the baby books said to start reading right away. Even if the child couldn’t understand the words, the bright pictures and comforting parental voice would stimulate their little minds. So I picked up Blue Hat, Green Hat because there was no WAY I was going to sit through Goodnight Moon. The text and pictures were simple, but Jacobi, barely four days old now, was riveted. I’m sure I could have dangled anything bright and colorful in front of his face and he would react the same way, but I would like to think that it was more than that. I would like to think he enjoyed my company, my story-reading skills, and of course, the book.
While I’m thinking about early books, I’ve got a funny story about Goodnight Moon. I was so resistant to this book at first. We received two or three copies of the book as gifts, and I picked it up, looked at the simple pictures and words, and I remember thinking how awful these children books were. For the first week or two, I refused to even pull this book down from the shelf because I thought it was just a fad. But after reading Blue Hat, Green Hat for two weeks straight, I needed some variety. It really is a great book. So easy, so simple, and yet, there was something so familiar and nostalgic about the book (even though I don’t remember it from my own childhood). I was instantly converted, and while I didn’t read Jacobi Goodnight Moon every night, I read it to him enough that even now, almost two years later, I have the entire thing memorized. In fact, I recited it to him tonight before bedtime as we sat rocking in the dark. It really has become a centerpiece for all the books I have read him over the last couple years.
Reading became a regular ritual for us. At night, Jacobi would always get a story, and as he got older, we would read to him before naptimes as well. By eight months, Jacobi was actively finding books and flipping through their pages. I couldn’t have been more proud of the little guy, sitting on the couch with his blanket and a stack of books. As he gets older, his reading has evolved as well. He still clings to Blue Hat, Green Hat, but he loves a lot of the Dr. Seuss, Curious George, and Berenstain Bears books. In fact, he can almost sit through an entire reading of one on most nights. These books hold my attention a little better, but I’ll never forget those early books. They really were a surprise to me.
I debated for a while whether I should post this under “The Author” blog. Reading is a huge part of writing after all. But at the heart of it all, reading with Jacobi really is an act of parenting, even if sometimes that act spills into my writing life also. Maybe my next book will be a children’s book. Who knows…