For much of my life, we had no TV. When we finally got one, it was a tiny black and white set with a wire hanger antenna and broken knobs. Therefore, my main form of entertainment was reading.
I loved going to the comic book store with my cousin. We’d spend hours perusing the boxes to find that perfect, Mylar-wrapped gem. We’d devour our new finds and hungrily await our next trip.
During summer breaks, I spent my days in the library where I participated in all of the reading programs and won all of the reading prizes. I often looked like a pack mule as I carried my haul of books back home.
As you can tell, reading has always been a huge part of my life. That’s why I was overjoyed when my kids expressed excitement about attending their school’s book fair. Memories flooded my mind when I saw their Scholastic catalogs and order forms. When I was in elementary school, I eagerly anticipated those catalogs. Book ordering season was my favorite time of year. Although we never had much disposable income, my mother always found a few dollars to reading material.
I’d always order Peanuts collections, Choose Your Own Adventure Books, and Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. These books made me laugh and took me on incredible journeys that transcended my humble surroundings.
My children have a much more comfortable life than I did, but they still seek out new worlds through books. We often read together and take family outings to the bookstore.
To encourage more families to read together, my kids’ school held a family night at the book fair. There were prize drawings, science stations, and entertainment (actually it was a guy in a Curious George suit who frightened half the kids). But the stars of the show were the books.
It was great to see mothers and fathers browsing through the bookshelves with their children. I could tell when parents stumbled across books from their youths because their faces would light up with glee and they would beckon their child over to have a look.
On different occasions, my wife, KayEm, and I recommended Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to our daughter, Nee. To our disappointment, she wasn’t interested in the book. Instead, she chose a book titled, “Boys Are Dogs.” Since KayEm and I were unfamiliar with the book and author, we read the summary to make sure that it was appropriate for her age:
Being the new kid in school is often hard enough (So far so, good. Nee was the new girl this year. She could relate), but Annabelle finds that dealing with the idiosyncrasies of sixth-grade boys is truly daunting (Boys! A red flag for Daddy). She misses her friends and doesn’t know how she feels about her mother’s live-in boyfriend, Ted (Sorry, Ted. You were the deal-breaker).
KayEm and I are definitely not prudes, but we didn’t want to have to explain a live-in boyfriend to a third grader. Nee had to choose another book. She selected a book called, “Sheep.” It’s about a dog that befriends and orphan. Approved!
My 6-year-old son, N, took a different approach to ensure he could get the book he really wanted. Before we left home for the book fair, he launched into his sales pitch.
“Some of the kids in my class keep bragging about their Bakugan toys and books,” he said with a forlorn look. “They keep waving them in my face and it makes me feel bad.”
“Oh, I feel SO bad for you,” I said. “You have been SO deprived.”
“But, Daddy,” he continued. “I really, really want a Bakugan book.”
“We’ll decide which books you get at the fair,” I said.
“Can I get a Bakugan toy too?” he asked.
“No, just a book,” I said before realizing that I just been hoodwinked. He threw in the toy so I’d settle on the book. He could teach Zig Ziglar a few things about selling.
N got his wish and found a Bakugan book that I approved of. But he also got an additional bonus: A Captain Underpants Book Bundle. N and I had to smuggle this score past KayEm because she is not a fan of the series’ potty humor.
We wrapped up the night with my reading Where the Wild Things Are to the kids before bedtime. As I prepared for bed, I stared at the stack of books of my nightstand. Should I think and grow rich or make friends and influence people?
I ultimately decided to watch TV with KayEm.
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