I would like my son to have a nice circle of friends. I want him to have the proper social skills that enable him to communicate cheerfully and comfortably with his peers. I dream of his little face brightening in recognition when he sees someone he knows. My mother’s heart wants to know that his friends will always be there for him, never making fun of him, never betraying him, never letting him down. I suppose you could say that I would like my son’s best friends to be like the ones that he has now. You see, my little boy is eighteen months old and his favorite friends right now are Spot, Stinky Face, a very hungry caterpillar, five little monkeys, a great, green room, Huckleberry Finn…yes, my son is delighted with his books.
Over the past year I have pondered why this little fellow is delighted with these objects called books. They don’t make noise or move; if they do anything at all it is because he is turning the pages and making the noise. Yet nothing will settle him down as quickly or for as long as these books. On his own initiative he will toddle to one of his baskets of books, plop down on the floor and look through one..and then another…and then one more…and then another…and just one more. He will study the pages, babble and jabber and point at the pages; he will do this several times a day. At bedtime we will read one or two stories together and when I say, “let’s go read a story” he will giggle and smile and squeal. I think he delights in stories because he is human.
It is ingrained within every human being to seek the security that comes from consistency. We all need to have a constant in our lives. It may be from a material object or a geographical location; usually it comes from a person. For children who grow up with books, these stories become the constants upon which they attach their earliest memories. Little ones who read the same set of books every day appreciate the predictability and soon learn that those faithful sounds, pictures, and colors will be there for them whenever they turn the pages. The books provide a sense of stability in an ever-changing world. These constants bring children the comfort and security they need to grow into confident thinkers.
As my son grows and matures, so will his collection of literary friends. He will learn that as he makes new friends, he will always be able to keep the old ones too. No matter where he goes, who he meets, or what challenges he faces, the stories will be the same. The characters will always be waiting for him; the familiar sounds, smells, and sights on the pages will remain just as he left them when he closed the book. And best of all, the lessons he learns from his interaction with these faithful friends will provide him with the skills he needs to navigate the treacherous, but thrilling waters of human friendship.