Our Reading Lives

When Your Kids Don’t Love Your Favorite Childhood Stories

Rebecca Einstein Schorr spends her time discovering the sanctity of every daily life and writing about it. Follow her on Twitter: @RebeccaSchorr.

This is a guest post from Rebecca Einstein Schorr. Rebecca is a rabbi, essayist, special needs advocate, and life-wrangler. When she’s not channeling all of the energy into her duties as chief scullery maid, freelance writer, and editor of a professional newsletter, Rebecca can be found reading. Her husband continues to marvel how it is she finds time to read when it seems that there wasn’t time for her to do the laundry. (Sorry, honey.) Chat with her on Twitter @RebeccaSchorr.

It was my dream trip. To visit Prince Edward Island, during the summer, and traipse through all of Anne Shirley’s girlhood haunts. Mentioning this to my husband as we planned our first married trip together, his reply could not have been more perfect: save that trip for when our future daughter (God-willing) is old enough to share the experience with you.

It was, I now see, a risky dream on which to hang my straw hat. Had we only had sons, or been unable to have any children, the dream would have ended right there and then. But at the time it seemed to be a very Gilbert Blythe-like response. And just a few months into our marriage, these alternatives were not even part of our consciousness.

Imagine, then, my delight when I gave birth to a daughter. Mere hours after entering the world, I cradled my dark-haired beauty in the crook of my arm and told her of all the wonderful things that awaited her including a far-off journey we would take together after she had (of course) fallen in love with the world of Anne of Green Gables.

Lilly was slow to read. It wasn’t that she didn’t like it; it’s just that she wasn’t very good at it. We had followed the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics to a tee. We read to our children daily. With inflection. And asked them questions. Our home is filled with books and each child has his or her own personal library. They see my husband and me read for enjoyment. Not just books, but all sorts of periodicals. We are the model family when it comes to reading readiness. And yet all three of our kids have struggled with the printed word.

Everything about Lilly as a little girl indicated that she would share my deep affection for these stories and the world L.M. Montgomery described. She loved tea parties and ruffled dresses and dreaming of fantastical places. But when the reading light bulb in her brain was finally switched to the on position, it wasn’t the beloved books of my youth she desired. Beverly Clearly? Nope. Laura Ingalls Wilder? No way. Neither The Little Princess nor The Secret Garden captured her heart. Not even Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden could hold her interest. Instead, she gravitates towards the Dork Diaries, The Land of Stories, and, her latest literary obsession, the Percy Jackson series. Dare I suggest a book, especially one with fond childhood memories, it is met with rolled eyes and a heavy sigh.

I could write this off as Lilly’s attempt to separate herself from me. After all, she is nearly twelve and is deep in the throes of tweenhood. She vacillates between wanting me to be her BFF and responding to every interaction with such vitriol that I imagine part of my soul being crushed. So I get that my unsolicited recommendations may very well impede on her need to establish her own likes and dislikes.

Or – and this is a harder, but much more important possibility – my own daughter just doesn’t love the books I love. And that needs to be OK. While I fantasized about sharing my love for particular books with her, the reality is that I have shared my love of reading with her.

So we may or may not ever visit PEI together. But on August 18th, you’ll find me baking a blue cake in honor of Percy Jackson’s birthday. Because that’s her current literary dream. And literary dreams are something that we do have in common.