The Bookish Moms Behind Book Riot

First and foremost, thanks to all the bookish moms out there! The ones who let us read under the blankets after bedtime, that read Goodnight Moon over and over and over again until it made you literally sick, that bought us the banned books we couldn’t read in school, who read aloud our childhood favorites even once we could read on our own.

Of course bookish moms help create avid readers, and we here at Book Riot are no different. Many of us had bookish moms, and many of us are now bookish moms, passing on our love of reading. For this Mother’s Day — and also my first Mother’s Day as a mom — I asked my fellow Rioters to share their stories and images of reading to their children and/or being read to as a child.

I’d love to hear your stories of bookish moms (or being a bookish mom)!

Contributor Steph Auteri reading to her child, in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

I still remember my mom reading to me before bedtime, particularly from my glow-in-the-dark copy of Good Night Richard Rabbit (which I still own). So of course, as soon as my daughter was born, I read to her as often as she could stand it. This first photo is one of many from her first year. The second photo is from last year, when she was just 2 and already beginning to comprehend how she could use her books to fuck with me. Owl Babies is about three owlets who wake up in the middle of the night to discover their mother is gone. They spend the rest of the book wishing for her return. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that, for the longest time, whenever I came home late from one of my extracurricular activities, I would find Emily waiting up for me in bed, wailing as soon as I walked in the front door, “Mommy! Can we read Owl Babies”? ::shakes head:: Total master of the guilt trip.

— Steph Auteri

Contributor Emily Martin reads with her mother and brother as a child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

I asked my mom what it was like reading to me and my brother when we were little, and this is what she said: “As an educator, I know how important it is for parents to read to their children. So, I read to my kids from the time they were babies. Sometimes I was so tired from working in a demanding career and taking care of a family, that I would fall asleep and keep “reading.” Actually, I would be spouting nonsense, and the kids would let me know! But, most of the time, reading was a special time for us to snuggle and share an experience. Sometimes, I read to Adam and Emily separately, but usually we read together. Their Dad and I took turns reading the bedtime story, but as Emily got older, she sometimes chose to read to Adam. Because there were not so many children’s book when I was little, I enjoyed discovering the rich variety of books that were available for children as well as some of the classics, like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that I had never read. But, we didn’t only stick to children’s books. I remember reading poems like Hiawatha to Emily when she was about three, and she loved the music of the language. Emily and Adam watched the Zefferelli movie, Romeo and Juliet, and seemed mesmerized. That night, Emily, who was about five, asked if I would read some of Romeo and Juliet to her. I thought she would want the famous balcony scene, but she wanted Mercutio’s dying soliloquy. From the time they were little, reading with my kids was a time of family closeness, enjoyment, and relaxation.”

— Emily Martin

Contributor Katherine Willoughby reads with her child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

I simply love reading to my son, who is now four years old. I tell him often that my favorite time of day is snuggling and reading with him. This is my favorite picture of us reading together. I love his bright eyes that seem to take in all of the words and illustrations!  

— Katherine Willoughby

Contributor Emily Polson reads with her mother, sister, and brother at the library, shared in celebration of bookish moms for mother's day

A librarian snapped this polaroid of my mom reading to my siblings and me (I’m the one on her lap). I credit my mom with making me the reader I am today. Not only did she teach me how to read, but she homeschooled all of us kids with a reading-based curriculum (Charlotte Mason, anyone?). Read-aloud time and D.I.R.T. (Daily Independent Reading Time) were essential components of our school day. Even when I was in high school, my mom still read aloud to my little sister and me over lunch. I’ll always be grateful for her turning me into a Potterhead from a young age, too. While some of my homeschool friends weren’t allowed to read Harry Potter, my mom read us the first few books as bedtime stories.

— Emily Polson

Contributor Jen Sherman reads with her child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

Reading as a mum: I never get as much time to read as I want, so sometimes I steal time (see photo). I read to Tilly almost every day, largely because it’s an easy way to keep her entertained. Favourite Books: Where is the Green Sheep, The World Shines for You, and The Gruffalo. Tilly’s reaction to reading: She loves it! She’s started turning pages now so board books are the new favourite.

— Jen Sherman

Contributor Margaret Kingsbury reads with her child, and her mother reads with her as a child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

Like many bookish moms, my mom read to me every night before bed. I can still remember her reading me A Wrinkle in Time for the first time. In this first picture, she’s reading me a collection of poems. While neither of us can remember which collection this is, I do remember filching her poetry books as a teenager. What mom taught me about reading is that it’s a daily activity. I mistakenly thought everyone read everyday until I was in college. It was such a normal activity in my house, and it’s one of the best gifts she’s given me (her unconditional love being #1, and apparently her taste in glasses somewhere in there as well). At first I tried to carry on the tradition of reading to my new little one every night before bed, but I soon realized that pattern was never going to work. Reading is very exciting to Marian — not a restful activity at all. So now we read off and on throughout the day. Sometimes we only get a few pages in at a time, other times, we manage an entire book. At five months, she loves chewing on books, grabbing the people in the pictures, and trying to figure out what I’m doing when I talk and stare at the page (she’ll look from me to the page back to me again. What in the world is Mommy doing?!?). But whether it’s during the day or at night, the tradition of normalizing reading carries on. Marian’s going to be surrounded by books everyday, just like her mommy and granma.

— Margaret Kingsbury

This is a picture of me reading with my 5-year-old son. We’re in my usual reading corner, on the loveseat in our family room with light from the window. What’s special to me about this picture is that we’re reading a book that my son himself wrote. Or, rather, he drew the pictures and got some help with writing a few words, as he’s not writing himself yet. But there was definitely a story he wanted to tell involving heroes and villains and lots of action. We read through this book multiple times, each reading a little different because we improvised the details. I love how much my son adores stories and reading and how he brings his immense creativity to everything he does.

— Rebecca Hussey

Contributor Dana Staves reads with her child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

When my son was a newborn, I remember lounging on the couch with him. He slept sprawled in my lap, and I managed, after some very careful reaching and slow moving, to retrieve my book from the coffee table. I read, and then turned a page, and he jerked awake at the noise of it, briefly, but long enough to show me that even my reading life had now changed. Other changes followed: letting him turn pages, accepting the books he brought me from my bookshelf, and memorizing his favorites, like this one. The Very Hungry Caterpillar still works a kind of magic on him. There are funky small pages to turn. There are caterpillar bites, holes just big enough for baby fingers to poke at. The way he happily plunks down in my lap when I pull out one of his books to read – that right there squeezes my bookish, squishy, soft Mama heart, every single time.

— Dana Staves

Contributor Jaime Herndon's grandmother reads to her child, shared in celebration of bookish moms for Mother's Day

I’ve always loved books, and my love of reading was always encouraged. My grandparents would take me to the bookstore after school, and my parents would take me to the library. I was never without a book – and to this day, that remains true. My son loves books, which makes my heart incredibly happy. He likes carrying them around with him, turning their pages, and looking at the pictures. We have about eleventy million board and picture books, but I will always be happy to buy him one more. When my son was an infant, my mom and grandmother would come over to help me during the day, and they would often read with him. These memories will always be some of my favorites.

— Jaime Herndon

Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks again to all the bookish moms out there! Keep reading (as if you need to be told)!

Ever heard the story of how Andrew Carnegie transformed the American public library system? Have a listen to the latest episode of Annotated:
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