Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our Toddlers Need Our Stories (A Message from River's Dad)

I will never forget the Cupboard behind my Second Grade teacher’s desk.

This Cupboard was a sacred place, and holy treasures came out of it. Whenever a child did especially well in class, or if a child was upset and needed comfort, Mr. Giono would stand solemnly and slowly – he was the tallest Grownup I had ever seen – and he would turn just as slowly and open the Cupboard. The child’s eyes would get big. Mr. Giono would pause a moment to select a Book, just the right Book, and then he would close the Cupboard and hand it to the child.

“You’ll like this,” he said, his eyes warm as the sun.

That wasn’t all that long ago, but now I am what is called a Grownup, and I find myself the delighted father of a young toddler who loves to page through her cardboard books and then -- furtively -- walk over to daddy’s bookshelves and pluck off one of his volumes to look at. I marvel at the wonder in her eyes as she looks at Books, and I recall my own wonder when I was a child. Yet I read in the news or hear on the radio reports of illiteracy among US children, of students in so many schools failing basic reading comprehension, or -- what’s worst of all -- parents failing simply to read in front of their children and read to their children and share their delight in stories.

Is it possible?

Is it possible that in an age of the Internet and Wikipedia and the e-book, when we are surrounded with easy access to a thousand thousand stories, that we are forgetting to share stories with our children? What dried-up Grownups we’re becoming, if that’s even slightly true!

Please, my fellow Parents and other Grownups, share this thought with every parent you know:

Our Toddlers and our Children need our Stories.

They need them desperately!

Read aloud with your finger pacing beneath the words. Read your own book while they play beside you. Fill their room with colorful books, right alongside the toys. The Toddlers will make a train wreck of the Books -- my little Baby River is evidence of that! But she also loves her Books and her daddy’s, mangled and torn as they are.

Our Toddlers (not just our Grade-Schoolers!) need our Stories.

This is what was in my heart when I took dictation for little River as she wrote her new e-book, What Grownups have on their Bookshelfs. I wanted to share with her in that amazing feeling of uncovered treasure that I experienced when Mr. Giono plucked a book for me out of the Cupboard. Baby River often plucks books off of her father’s shelves, and I tried to imagine what she might think of the Stories in them, what they might teach her about Grownups, and how she might explain them to other Toddlers.

This is what Baby River, our House’s resident Toddler Anthropologist, has to say about the Books Grownups read, and since this is actually her Blog, I had better hush now and let her talk!

My fellow Toddlers, Grownup Stories are so so different from Ours. There aren’t very many Ladybugs or Bedtime Routines or Countings. But they are full of the Things that Hide Deep in Grownups’ Hearts. We all know how the Grownups can be Troubled and can lose their Happy, and that’s why we Toddlers need to Study their Stories and learn how we can Help them. Let me tell you about some of the Stories Grownups tell Each Other, and what we can learn from them about Grownup Culture. Here goes.

River’s new book, What Grownups Have on Their Bookshelfs, expresses the wonder of a Toddler discovering Stories. And to a Toddler, even ponderous Grownups and their old, old Stories can be unexpected and glorious treasures.

River’s e-book is our gift to you, and to all like-minded Parents and Other Grownups, with all the Warmth in our Hearts --

Baby River, and River’s Dad


  1. Lovely post! One of my earliest mentors was a children's librarian who, undoubtedly offered me many treasures with the same words "I think you'll like this." Thank you for this important reminder about the power of stories for learning and growing.

  2. Awesome post. We are a family who reads all the time - even ignoring outside time (though that's important too) to stay in and read. Thanks for the reminder to all of its importance.