The Most Important Book I Ever Read isn’t a classic novel or a contemporary literary masterpiece or a enlightening religious or philosophical work. The Most Important Book I Ever Read is the bedtime story. By “bedtime story” I don’t mean a single book – or even necessarily at bedtime. What I really mean is any book, read with any child, at any time.
Probably like many of you, my fondest early memories of reading are of being read to – my father reading aloud The Berenstain Bears, and Frog and Toad when I was very young, and later Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island; if I had to choose a single activity or precious moment of my own parenting life, it would be the time spent reading with my own children (today’s selections happened to be Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
The magic of the “bedtime story” is all in the closeness, the connection, and the shared adventure in a fictional world. As a parent (or other relative, teacher, or literacy volunteer) we may never know which book is the one that opens up a child’s imagination, that unlocks her curiosity, that prompts his acquisition of the basic building blocks of language and knowledge, or that ultimately inspires a greater understanding of the world. All we know for certain is the joy it brings to reader and listener alike, and so we have faith that the rest will follow.
-Jennifer M. Kaufman