Sunday, August 29, 2010

Siblings and Books

I grew up in a home where everybody read books. For most of my childhood we didn't have television. For two years we lived in a small town in the United States where horrified friends, finding we had no television, gave us one, and those two years were probably the two when I read the least. Since I was the eldest child, many of the books came to me first and were passed on, but quite early my brothers and I had different tastes, and I don't remember recommending books to them very often or having them recommend books to me. (Brothers, since both of you read this blog, do you have any memories to the contrary?)

My children are growing up in a home where everybody reads books, too. And one of the things I am enjoying as they get older is that my daughter (13) is always recommending books to her younger brother (7). Sometimes she says, "You'll like that when you're a little older," and sometimes she hands it to him for right now, and sometimes she even reads to him.

She's always right, too. Several times she has suggested books to him that I have wondered about - that will be too difficult for him, surely? A few months ago she chose The Phantom Tollbooth and this was my reaction. But he loved it, and while he may not have understood every bit of the wordplay, he got enough of it that I could hear him giggling as he read. Part of the reason she is always right is that he adores her (though you wouldn't always know it) and he's willing to try her ideas.

In the car on the way to church this morning they were discussing mysteries. He said he liked them. She said that many of them didn't seem very realistic to her; those things just wouldn't happen. He said that he liked books that weren't realistic. A comparison of fantasy and realistic fiction that just isn't very realistic ensued. She opined that books need to obey the rules of their genre. How could an English teacher not smile at such a conversation?

This is a subset of their whole relationship, of course. In the same way as my brothers are two of the most important people in my world, so my children are part of each other in a way neither of them will ever be a part of anyone else. They are the only two who come from my husband and me, the only ones who will share our family memories when he and I are gone, memories of trips taken and cars breaking down and holidays and special meals and books we've read and a devastating earthquake. Recommending books is only one of the services that my daughter will offer her younger brother; accepting her recommendations is only one that he will offer her. I hope they will remain close for their whole lives, the way my brothers and I have, though we live in three different countries.

And all of this has got me thinking: one of my brothers (the youngest of the three of us) loaned me a book, Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury, several years ago and told me to read it. I still haven't read it - he told me to keep it and replaced it a long time ago in his own collection - but I'm going to start today.

3 comments:

Amy LV said...

What a beautiful post. I had just been thinking about how I love hearing my children's book recommendations to each other, and I love the idea that each is giving the other a gift in these moments. It's a gift to us as parents too, to hear these bits of love exchanged. Thank you for sharing your family here.
Our family would like to do something book-wise for others. Might there be some small way we could contribute to the literate lives of your students from afar?
A.

Andy Bowen said...

I have gotten a bit behind on reading your blog, since we still have almost no internet access except on my BlackBerry, which is pretty inconvenient. But I just read this and I wanted you to know I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Ruth,
I love your post.
My kids are now 22 & 25.
We are all readers too.
We have come from where your kids are to 2 & 3 way recommendations.
I'm blessed to be part of the triangle.
Vicky