I Can Show You the World*

Rose ReadsResearch shows fairly conclusively (at least to me) that early exposure to a lot of reading supports children’s literacy development. But the research doesn’t always convey the way love of reading and appreciation of the magic of a book can be passed along. It can though, and it is.

If you remember being read to as a child, you know what I mean. If you’ve experienced what it’s like to read to children or grandchildren, you know what I mean. Passing the magic along is a very special experience. And it gets even better when your child/grand-child reads to you. Trust me. There’s nothing like it.

If you look at the world of crime fiction, you can see clearly how one generation’s love of books and writing can be passed on. For instance, fans of Dick Francis’ work will tell you that he created some memorable mystery standalones and series. The ones I like best are the Sid Halley novels, but that’s just my opinion. Fans will also tell you that his son Felix also became a writer. He co-authored some work with his father, and has continued the tradition of sport/racecourse mysteries under his own name.

Patti Abbott is a highly skilled writer. Her short story collection Monkey Justice is well-written, compelling and with a nice touch of noir. And her novel Home Invasion takes a fascinating look at a family over the course of fifty years. It’s told in a series of stories, all related by the overall family history. She is also the author of a number of fine short stories that have been published in lots of different contexts. Abbott is also the mother of Megan Abbott. Yes, the Megan Abbott, author of Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything and, well, you get the idea. Certainly the love of reading and writing and the magic of a good story have been passed along in that family.

There’s also James Lee Burke, author of the highly-regarded Dave Robicheaux series. Fans will know that Robicheaux is a cop with the New Iberia, Louisiana Police. Burke has also written the Billy Bob Holland series. Holland is a former Texas Ranger who has become an attorney. There’s also Burke’s Hackberry ‘Hack’ Holland series about a Korean War veteran who’s also been in politics and is now a Texas sheriff. He’s written other novels and short story collections as well. Besides all of this, Burke is the father of crime writer Alafair Burke. Her series include the well-regarded Ellie Hatcher novels (there’s a new one coming out in late June/early July!) and the Samantha Kincaid series. Fans will know that Kincaid is a deputy District Attorney, while Hatcher is an NYPD cop. These two authors have different styles, but it’s clear that the love of books, reading and writing has been passed along.

Jonathan and Faye Kellerman are both highly regarded authors. Readers of their series will know that Jonathan Kellerman is the author of, among other things, the Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis series. Faye Kellerman is the author of the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, along with other work she’s done. They’ve also passed along the love of reading, writing and books. They are the parents of thriller author and playwright Jesse Kellerman, whose work includes Potboiler, Trouble, and The Executor.

And you don’t have to confine yourself to crime fiction to see how the magic can be given to the next generation. Laura Ingalls Wilder is famous as the author of the Little House series. Those novels ‘hooked’ generations of young people on books. Wilder was also the mother of Rose Wilder Lane, who became a journalist, novelist and travel writer in her own right. She also wrote biographies and other books as well. Even in a place and time when it wasn’t as easy to get books as it is now, the love of reading and writing was passed along in the Wilder family too.

‘That’s all very well,’ you may be thinking, ‘but I’m not a famous writer.’ Doesn’t matter. You can still pass the Lelah Readsmagic along. On this World Book Day, let’s remember that one of the finest gifts you can give the next generation is literacy and love of reading. Read with your children and grand-children and you’re leaving a priceless legacy. It doesn’t take an awful lot of time, and passing on the love of reading is free, healthy, and enriching for everyone. Talk about making memories! Don’t have children or grand-children? Don’t have nieces or nephews? Doesn’t matter. Lots of local schools, libraries and other groups would love to have your help in bringing reading to children who might not otherwise be exposed to it. Find out what’s happening in your area to bring the magic of books to children and be a part of it. You never know which young person might end up writing about the next school for wizards…

On top of everything else, writers everywhere will appreciate your assistance in creating the next generation of book junkies. 😉




*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Tim Rice and Alan Menken’s Whole New World.


Filed under Alafair Burke, Dick Francis, Faye Kellerman, Felix Francis, James Lee Burke, Jesse Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Megan Abbott, Patti Abbott, Rose Wilder Lane

37 responses to “I Can Show You the World*

  1. So true Margot. I love helping the kids in the library when they come and ask me for books. I get a real kick out of finding them new adventures to read 🙂

    • D.S. – Oh, that is so wonderful that you work with the young people in the library. To me, anyone who helps get children interested in reading is doing a public service of inestimable value. We can’t all be world famous writers or scholars. But we can all help kids discover the magic of reading.

  2. I must admit that I’m deeply prejudiced here. After all, my wife just retired as a school librarian, so we are both deeply committed to reading to, by, and for children. When my daughters were about 9 or 10, I read them the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even now, more than 20 years later, they still talk about what a great experience that was, and they both remain readers. Now, with a grandchild on the way, my wife and I are looking forward to bringing up baby to share our love of books.

    Stepping down from my soap box, let me point out Charles and Caroline Todd, the mother-son team writing historical mysteries as Charles Todd. (Just to bring it back to the point!)

    • Les – When it comes to reading with children and encouraging love of reading, you can step on a soapbox any time at all as far as I’m concerned. And it sounds as though you and your daughters had some memorable and lovely times experiencing the Lord of the Rings books. I think that’s wonderful. And now you’ve got the world of reading to a grandchild ahead of you, too. It’s a great experience. Trust me.
      Thanks too for mentioning Caroline and Charles Todd. I’m truthfully a bit embarrassed that I left that particular gap. I’m grateful you filled it in. It’s such a terrific example of passing along the love of books and reading.

  3. I always read to my own children, which was wonderful, but I also used to go into their elementary schools and read to each of their classes once a week, and that was a huge joy. The best bit was this – if one of their classmates saw me in the school corridor they would say ‘ooh great! It’s reading day! Can’t wait.’ Few things in life are quite as rewarding as that….

    • Moira – I can’t argue with you there. And I think it’s wonderful that you took the time to read to their classes. How fun! And yes, there’s nothing quite like the experience of reading with one’s children.

  4. With my first son, I played, “Hooked On Phonics” into my pregnant belly with headphones. My boy was reading fluidly by the time he turned three. He was into chapter books by age five. Around Middle School, he lost interest in reading for recreation. Now, as a young man, he is slowly drifting back. 🙂

    • AR – You know, there is research that supports reading aloud while one’s expecting, especially in the last months. I think most young people (‘though certainly not all!) go through a time when they lose interest in reading. I’m glad your son got it back. 🙂

  5. I genuinely miss having young children to read to. The years of reading to my two hold fond memories for all of us and my phone calls to my now adult children often have a quote from some long ago favourite book or poem. Going to the library was always a fun trip and although my son was never a big reader while growing up he listened to audio books and now belongs to a writing group so the magic did get passed along as he loves a good story.

    • Cleo – It is a wonderful experience isn’t it to read to children. We used to take our daughter to the library and bookshops too when she was young, and it was always a good experience. And I think it’s terrific that there are audio books and other ways to experience stories, so that your son caught the magic too. As a parent, you opened the door; your children walked through. I love it.

      • Those memories last a lifetime, when the jokes and much loved phrases about shared books still continue to this day. My daughter is just like me and always has a book on the go and when she returns plunders my bookshelf, but it did work albeit in a slightly different way with my son. I was determined not to nag about reading (although it was hard at times!)

        • Cleo – I think you were wise not to nag your son. He’s discovered books in his own way and at his own pace and I’ll bet stories mean a lot more to him than they would have if you’d nagged. And isn’t it wonderful to be able to share reading and books with your adult children? Just the act of reading with your children has bound you to them in a whole new way.

  6. Imagine turning up here. Thanks for the mention. We all spent our life at the library, my son included. Reading ties us together. Not more an a few minutes pass before someone asks, “what are you reading?’

    • Patti – Well of course I mentioned you! And I’m not in the least bit surprised that you and your family spent so much time at the library. It’s a magical place isn’t it? I think you have a good point too that reading really does tie a family together, even if everyone has very different tastes and reads very different things.

  7. Margot: Just over 30 years ago my father lost almost all of his vision. He could no longer read. He had enjoyed reading books about Western Canada and the outdoors. Few audio books of the time covered those subjects. I audiotaped for him several of his favourite books. He loved listening to those books and thanked me often for taping them for him. I always felt humbled that the modest time I spent taping those books meant so much to him.

    Might the top photo be of Confessions granddaughter?

    • Bill – What a wonderful idea to record your father’s books for him, and what lovely gift too – to give books and the love of them back to him. I can only imagine how grateful he must have been. I’m so glad that so many books are now available in audio form, and even those that aren’t can be recorded more easily than they could.
      And about the ‘photos…the top one is of my daughter when she was a child. The second one is of her daughter, taken almost a year and a half ago.

  8. Nothing I used to enjoy more than reading to my twin nieces with them begging me to go on for just a little bit longer – it wasn’t just the book of course as they wanted to put off bedtime but magical is certainly the word for it – some great inter-generational pairing there – and I love the example of writers like Caroline Todd and her son, Charles whose jointly-authored novels appear as ‘Charles Todd’ – thanks Margot, as ever.

    • Sergio – There is really something isn’t there about the bond you form with young people when you’re reading to them. Doesn’t matter if part of it is ‘Oooh, we get to stay up past bedtime!’ Quite frankly I can’t think of any better reason to put off bedtime than reading anyway. Not that I ever do that myself… 😉 And yes, the ‘Todd Team’ is certainly a stellar example of the way love of books and reading is passed on.

  9. Agree with you wholeheartedly. Both myself and my husband spent a lot of time reading to my son for many years. He even used to turn the pages of his childrens’ books very carefully before he was one year old, always taking care of them. He was a late reader, but as soon as he started reading he caught up immediately, and now reads three times as many books in a year as I do. Maybe an exaggeration but he reads a lot (as an adult).

    • Tracy – I think it’s wonderful that you and your husband spent so much time reading to your son. Little wonder he’s blossomed into an avid adult reader. And research shows that children who do have a home that’s rich in books and reading learn the basics of reading (e.g. English goes left to right; you turn a page to hear more of a story; the pictures usually go with those squiggly black things on the page) very early in life. And those are the basics that give children the ‘steppingstone’ they need to become readers themselves.

  10. kathy d.

    Reading to children is such a joy, especially when they are interested. I read to a neighbor’s child years ago when he was young. And I’ve always given books to friends’ children, including to another neighbor’s two little ones.
    And how much fund it is to see an email photo of a nearly four-year-old looking intently at a book I gave to him.

    • Kathy – Oh that must be wonderful. Your neighbour’s son was lucky to have you to read to him. And I can’t think of a better gift to give a child than a love of reading and of course, the books to go with it.

  11. Reading has always been one of my greatest pleasures. I used to read anything I could find as a child, and we always read our three children bedtimes stories. Two are now great readers and one is an author herself with a fantastic ‘four book deal’ (children’s) in America. So she is passing that joy on to others too..

  12. A wonderful reminder, Margot. Some of my favorite memories are of reading with and to my children. And having my parents and grandmother read to me.

    • Elizabeth – I have wonderful memories too, of reading with my daughter. And you’re right; those memories of being read to are also really precious. And now you’ve set your children up to pass it on themselves.

  13. Lovely post, Ms. Kinberg, and rather apt for international women’s day. I come from a family of writers, journalists, and artists and it feels nice to know that so many people in the family read and wrote (and still do). Way back my paternal grandmother wrote stories about mothers and children in local newspapers. I still have the clippings and someday intend to write a post about them, or republish them. As for more professional examples, Kingsley and Martin Amis come to my mind

    • Prashant – Thank you for the kind words. And I truly do hope that you will do a post sometime on your family’s writers. How wonderful for you that so many members of your family are avid readers and skilled writers.

  14. I’m so grateful that I come from a long line of readers and book lovers, and thoroughly enjoy reading with my niece, even though she’s just at the pointing at cows and discussing what noise they make stage of reading so far! I think that there’s only so much influence can do though, my sister (the only one of four siblings) isn’t a reader at all, even though she grew up with the same bedtime stories I did, so I think it’s something you’re born with also!

    • Claire – There’s no doubt that we are all different when it comes to the role reading plays in our lives. There are myriad factors that go into how much and what we read. I think you have a point there. That said, I think it enriches children, even those who don’t become avid readers themselves, to be exposed to lots of reading. Among a lot of other things it creates a bond between generations, as you’ve discovered with your niece.

  15. Col

    My son was an avid reader when younger, but his passion has graduated to music now. My girls were slower to the books and whilst not avid readers like their dad enjoy books, usually more so around holiday-time.

    • Col – I think the passion for books never completely disappears. Perhaps your son will get back to it a little later in life. And it’s good to hear your daughters like reading, even if they aren’t voracious readers.

  16. One thing I love is when authors of adult books start writing children’s, middle grade, and YA books as well. Chris Grabenstein comes to mind. What a great way to create a new batch of book lovers for the next generation of writers.

    • Pat – Oh, that’s such a well-taken point. Authors like Grabenstein and some others do such a terrific job of reaching the middle school/YA audience too. And folks like that who make young people want to read deserve the highest praise.

  17. I was read to as a child and, in my opinion, it’s the greatest gift you can give a child. I’d add to your list, Felix Francis, son of Dick and Liam Mcilvanney, son of William.

    • Sarah – You are absolutely right about the value of reading to and with children. What a gift indeed! And thanks for adding Liam Mcilvanney to this list. He’s a terrific example of exactly what I had in mind with this post.

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