One warm Friday evening back in October 2017, I went from having zero kids to having an almost-two-year-old. Just like that. I had been preparing to be a foster mom for over a year, and the training was thorough and informative, but, let me tell you, there was nothing that could have truly prepared me for this (beautiful) chaos.
I’m an English teacher, a book nerd, a writer, and a scatterbrain, so while most foster-moms-in-training were probably stocking up on essentials like sippy cups, bibs, and diapers, I was buying this imaginary child books, books, and more books. Books ARE my essentials.
When I got THE call on my drive home from work, I realized that I only had about an hour to prepare for this little sweet pea’s arrival. Naturally, I did what any well-prepared foster mom would do. I called my incredibly patient boyfriend in a panic and asked him to come and finish setting up the crib, and then I put a stack of about twenty-three picture books on the coffee table. Piece of cake.
Here’s what happened.
Sweet Pea arrived, and, within minutes, he threw every single book across the room. I mean, it was joyful throwing accompanied by screeches of delight, not angry throwing. But just imagine this book nerd sitting there, watching this. My precious, carefully chosen books were now projectiles.
Sweet Pea mostly wanted to play with cars and trucks. Don’t get me wrong. I like cars and trucks, too. Really, I do! Nevertheless, I made it my mission to help him find joy in books. I read and read and read to him. Even when he wouldn’t sit still, I just kept reading. I bought even more books, trying to find The One.
Finally, one day, Sweet Pea picked up a copy of Todd Parr’s Be Who You Are, walked over to me, opened my hand with his tiny fingers, and placed the book in it. It’s a miracle I didn’t frighten him with my teary celebrating. He cuddled next to me on the couch, and I read him that beautiful book that encouraged him to love himself.
Friends, in that moment, a reader was born.
Something about that book spoke to him. We’ve probably read it hundreds of times, and we’re now on our second copy. It’s helped him learn many new words. In fact, he still cheers whenever he says “kitty cat” because of how we celebrated the first time he said it while we read Be Who You Are. We celebrate lots of milestones and accomplishments in our house, but the book-related celebrations are my favorite.
Now, Sweet Pea can’t get enough of books. That makes me proud, and it makes me joyful that he has discovered this gift. It makes me thankful for the awesome folks who write stories for kids. And it makes me want to hug Todd Parr.
As we continue our reading adventures, I’d love to share our favorite books with you. I’d love to hear your recommendations of books we should read, too. Thank you in advance for sharing!