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10 Bookish Lessons for My Young Daughters

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Karina Glaser

Contributing Editor

Karina Yan Glaser is a full-time writer and illustrator with a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under-resourced areas around the world. Karina is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade books, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of rescued animals. One of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can't go anywhere without a book. Website:; Twitter: @KarinaYanGlaser; Instagram: @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting

A few months ago, my Book Riot colleague Wallace Yovetich asked me how my two daughters, ages six and eight, got into reading. It made me think about the bookish lessons I taught my daughters from an early age, and how my kids were basically doomed from the beginning to be readers.

Here are my ten bookish lessons for my young daughters. What are the bookish lessons you’ve taught your favorite young people?

1. Reading starts early. I’m sure my kids remember me reading The Brothers Karamazov out loud when they were in the womb. I’m planning to quiz them about it tomorrow.

Reading Are We There Yet by Dan Santat

Time traveling with Dan Santat’s Are We There Yet?

2. If I fall asleep while reading my kids a bedtime story, they know it is entirely appropriate to cuddle with me and gently stroke my hair until I wake up. Inappropriate actions include prying open my eyelids, poking me in the ribs, or yelling in my ear; such actions will result in no dessert for all eternity.

3. My older daughter is the proud owner of a Kindle, which we stock up with e-books from the library. She knows to never, ever drop her Kindle in water. She will not get a new one, even if her birthday is coming up.

Reading Ramona the Pest

4. Reading during meals is fair game in our household, especially if it keeps the kids from throwing food at each other or complaining that everything on their plates is disgusting.

5. My kids know to always keep a book in their backpack. I tell them the extra weight is good conditioning for when they read Wild by Cheryl Strayed in their 20s or 30s then leave on a soul-seeking hike along the Pacific Coast Trail.

{Unrelated side note: I’m not the kind of mom who will carry my kids’ backpacks for them, regardless of how little or cute they are. If they complain, I make them carry my backpack too, and it has a lot more books in it than theirs does.}

6. Read popular and current books, but read classic ones, too. I expect them to know how to make a smoker (Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder), come up with creative weekend ideas (The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright), and how to make money by collecting worms for fishermen (Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary).

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder cover The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright coverHenry Huggins by Beverly Cleary cover





7. Checking out the limit of fifty books from the library is completely normal. We can always use our second library card if we need more than that. Plus, we have that third library card for book emergencies as they arise. Preparedness is the key for every book lover.

Reading to the dog8. Make friends with librarians and other book-loving adults by baking them cookies, making them bracelets, and drawing them pictures. They will repay you in book recommendations for the rest of your life. (And the pictures you draw will stay pinned up on the circulation desk forever.)

9. Used and independent bookstores are magical places. It is a necessary stop in every place we visit, and my kids sure do take advantage of my inability to say no at bookstores.

10. Reading while commuting is a necessary life skill, a skill that I am very proud to have modeled for them and witnessed their mastery. Watching them navigate city streets and subways on our daily forty-five minute commute make me feel like I’ve taught them everything they need to know to get through life.

Reading While Commuting