How my Mom Raised a Reader

Growing up I thought everyone read. Not just knew how to read but lived in a household where it was perfectly acceptable to lie on the couch with a book for hours. I thought all parents went to bed with books in their hands. That all mothread-to-kidsers took their children on weekly trips to the library and introduced them to their favorite authors, taking them by the hand to sections in the library and saying, “Here, look around.”

I distinctly remember standing in the children’s section of the Magnolia library, a cool leafy place where efficient librarians in low heels wore their glasses on beaded straps. I was a tall child. Left alone, I stood akwardly with my bruised knees the height of the child-sized large round table around which the book shelves formed a U.

My mom left me to go to the adult fiction side of the library, telling me to look around. I didn’t want to look around. I wanted to go with her. Although I already loved reading I didn’t want to be left alone. I didn’t want to interact with any other snot encrusted little kids. So I left that section and shadowed my mom as she asked the librarian about some author and then did her own browsing.

At the time I didn’t know it but this would be the place that would form the greater part of my childhood education.This is where I’d discover L.M Montgomery, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder and later, Willa Cather. This quiet little building was a portal to the American Plains, a farm on Prince Edward Island, the suburbs of New England, a small gossipy town in the 1950’s midwest and so many more exotic places around the globe.

When you encourage a child to read and take them to the library you are giving them a passport to adventures few people have in real life. Cracking open the young brain and pouring in all kinds of imaginative stimuli is giving them the drug of endless curiosity. Because like a drug once you’ve tasted it, you want more. Books connect links in children’s minds that will grow and foster ambition because writers don’t waste their time on the lazy, lethargic or shiftless unless they are a foil to the hero. Reading about heroes creates a sense of hope and dreams that are integral to living a full and creative life.

So Happy Mother’s Day Gwen Oaksmith. Thank you for introducng me to the world of books.

My mom (left) and her best friend, Liz B.

My mom (left) and her best friend, Liz B.

Ellyn Oaksmith is the bestselling author of 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. She’s an eternal optimist, dog lover and always plotting something.  Visit her at and join hernewsletter for free books, new releases and great reading suggestions.

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  • Nancy Goldberg Levine

    Beautiful post. My mom raised a reader, too. Our library was tiny–now they combined it with another one and it’s huge, but I still love going there.

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