“Read to Me,” She Said

Dear Caroline,

You’re still only a few years old, your face still round and soft, and I’m reading a book to you. It’s probably the Berenstain Bears I’m reading because Mom bought so many of those.

We’re lying on your bed, you snuggled on my chest, and I’m reading you the story, maybe the one about too much birthday. I’m turning the pages and you’re looking at the pictures and hearing me say the words.

I can feel your breath on my neck, whiff your scent, see your eyes blink as you listen, utterly absorbed in the Berenstains.

We went like that for years, sometimes sitting on the sofa in the living room, other days elsewhere. We sailed through the whole Berenstains oeuvre, and who knows which other books.

“Shall I read you something?” I would ask, usually at night, right after dinner.

Usually you said, “Yes, read to me.”

The readings gave you a sense of story, of language, and took us beyond the apartment, into another dimension. You might ask me about an unfamiliar word or about why something happened in a story.

You loved the Berenstain Bears; the books always seemed to be about too much this or too much that. I read to you regularly for years, and it all went into your eyes and ears, all those words and pictures, unleashing your imagination.

Later, we graduated to the great E.B. White, to “Stuart Little” and “Trumpet of the Swan” and, of course, “Charlotte’s Web.” You were older then, maybe seven or eight, and bigger, too, taking up more space in my arms.

But it made no difference. I read to you all the same, read to you about the pig and the spider, chapter after chapter, night after night, until we finished three weeks later.

Mostly I remember how close the readings brought me to you, the intimacy of it, sharing a book with my daughter, reading it together. By then you could read on your own, but you seemed no less glad for me to read to you, and I was pleased to do it.

No doubt it served us both well. It gave me the chance to give you something of value, a love of reading. And you took it all in, all the words and pictures, making a world of your own.

The books came alive to you, and today you read still, widely and with hunger, novels, biographies, histories. And you tell stories so well, too, with a real sense of the beginning, middle and end, the logic of drama, the joys of narrative.

You can really see the connection between then and now, how it made a difference. It’s hard to say which of us came away from those readings, those special moments, the most rewarded.

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