Yesterday morning I asked my son if he wanted to go to the zoo. His matter of fact response just about floored me:
“I want to go to Barnes and Noble.”
As a writer and lover of books, it literally warmed my heart that a four year old boy would willingly trade a wide open zoo teeming with monkeys and tigers for an enclosed space filled with a bunch of literature. After the momentary shock of his words wore off, I realized my son is much more similar to me than I had previously known.
When I gaze back upon my childhood (who knew it was that long ago?), there are certain memories that tower above others: bedtime stories with my grandma, the excitement of the annual Scholastic book fair (“Which books do I choose?”), summers spent at the library, rocking through Pizza Hut’s Book It club, and diving into the latest Hardy Boys or Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Without these stalwart memories, I surely wouldn’t be the man I am today.
As a father of two incredible kids, it’s always a joy to load them into the car and take a short drive to one of the great bookstores around town. Whether we’re just browsing for the latest Star Wars novel, scanning the shelves for something unknown/rare, or simply immersing ourselves in the musty smell of uncountable pages, a trip to the bookstore is always a worthwhile treat. I’m sure one of the reasons Barnes and Noble was on my son’s mind yesterday was because we had visited the store the previous two days in a row. Yes, I find bookstores to be that important.
Today I am an adult. Hardy Boys and choosing my own adventure aren’t as thrilling as they were twenty-five years ago. All these years later, though, I realize my love for literature sprung from the help of two parents who saw the importance of putting books into the hands of their three impressionable kids. And not just any books, mind you, but fictional stories filled with talking animals, nonsensical action, and outer space worlds that simply don’t exist. While there are loads of parents (trust me, I know them) who would claim such parental decisions are detrimental to a child, I personally couldn’t imagine raising my children without the discovery and wonder of a new book around each corner.
I will likely take my kids to the zoo at some point this week. We’ll have loads of fun and learn something new about the incredible world around us. Then we’ll pick up a book, get lost in a wonderland, and learn just as much about life as we fall into the pages of make believe, fantasy, and an appreciation for the words written all around us.