Writer’s Block: For the love of a good book

If there is something that is always on my mind, it’s books.

Mandy Moran Froemming
Mandy Moran Froemming

I am always immersed in a current selection or on the lookout for a great new read. My errand list always includes a stop at the library.

One of my fears of motherhood was that I would no longer have time to read. I had been told by several people it just wouldn’t be feasible to regularly dig in to a stack of library books.

They were wrong.

An early lesson I have learned as a parent is that you make time for what is important. And what is important to me is reading. Perhaps there are things that fall by the wayside as a result of my priorities. But from my reading nook the house usually looks clean enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if company dropped by unannounced. As long as the bottles are washed and there’s a clean set of clothes for tomorrow, I say we’re good.

What usually suffers is that extra hour of sleep I’m willing to trade for just a few more chapters.

A quick search of my house and it’s easy to see I’m a reader. There are haphazard cairns of books stacked in every room, most of them on loan because I can’t afford to finance ownership of the amount of books I like to read.

When they start to get out of control, their teetering stacks threatening a crash, my husband usually mentions that we could stop by the library and return a few on our way to the store.

I wonder if my little guy, who is growing up crawling around these stacks, will share my love for the written word?

When I was about six or seven I couldn’t understand why my mother would waste her time reading that big, messy, gray newspaper every evening. I would bug her to put it down and do something more fun.

Skip ahead nearly three decades and that is my life’s work. Even at its worst, a newspaper is a jumble of need to know information. At its best, it is a work of art.

Looking back, it was certainly a lesson in learning by example.

I was recently asked what my favorite book was as a child. I have no idea.

I honestly don’t remember doing a lot of reading when I was little and was amazed by listening to a number of young women talk enthusiastically about the books they adored as children.

But I must have favorites, because by the time I hit middle school I was devouring all kinds of novels, many inappropriate because in the 80s good young adult fiction was hard to find. This was long before “Harry Potter” or the “Hunger Games,” and it didn’t take long before “The Babysitters Club” or “Sweet Valley High” bored me. And “Nancy Drew” never was my thing.

This has all left me acutely aware of the challenges of raising a young reader.

At this point, the only qualifier is that the books must be made of cardboard or cloth, lest they will be unmercifully reduced to shreds by my destructive little 10-month-old, whose favorite activities include ripping up paper and chasing down electrical outlets.

At our six-month check up the pediatrician sent us home with a book. She told us reading to our son is the only thing we could do that is proven to make a child smarter.

So we’re reading a lot of “Go Dog Go” at our house these days, along with a few other similar titles in the rotation.

On a good night he might sit through one short Seuss-style story – two if I let him chew on the first book while we read the second.

Will he be a reader? It is too soon to tell. I can recall interviewing an early literacy reading specialist several years ago who told me the recommendation was eight books a day, starting with newborns. They don’t have to be long books, but books nonetheless.

That number is daunting, but we do our best, sneaking a story in here or there. I’m not sure that we’ve ever hit that benchmark though – mostly because I prefer to read longer, more interesting stories.

Hopefully, my fiction addiction will rub off on him.