I have always loved books and reading. As a child, whenever we went out as a family, I would take a book with me, or could be found hidden away with a book I’d borrowed from the shelves of wherever we were. It should be no surprise then, that when I first had children, what I did was read to them. I was ill equipped though, without any lovely board books or picture books, so the first book my baby daughter heard was Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. She seemed to like it - and is still a fan, nearly 13 years on.
As I became a more practised parent, board and picture books aplenty were acquired for subsequent children. We practically memorised The Magic Faraway tree when it was read over and over as a bedtime story. Winnie the Pooh is a firm family favourite, and we can all recite Rattletrap car, taking different parts throughout and joining together for the refrain.
Now I have a pre teen daughter, as well as a nearly 10 year old son, a toddler and a baby. Today I’ve read Hello baby to the baby, My Big Shouting day to the toddler and discussed A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair with my elder son. But it’s my eldest child, my first daughter, who is my reading buddy. She now enjoys the YA fiction, particularly SF/F, that I turn to myself time after time. It gives us a common ground that I’ve seen other mother daughter pairs lack, and that I clasp to myself jealously.
We’ve shared Graceling and discussed the lead character - is she a feminist? Her strengths of surviving but inability to express her own emotions are a yin yang that we see often, is that a necessary evil? We practically fought over Bitterblue when it arrived this summer - I read faster than she does so I got it first. And then couldn’t talk about it for three days while she read it too! A much more involved character that we could explore together.
And it was her that introduced me to Maria Snyder and a Touch of Power. Another strong female character in a beautifully defined world, with a strong mythology all of its own. It gives us a common ground to discuss issues that we might find difficult to talk about in day to day experience. We can talk about growing up, changing, experiences with boys, all framed in the safe language of another world, but with our owns truths layered below. Books give us a bond that I never had with my own mother, that I cherish every day.
Discussing the Hunger Games, or The wonder of wonder might seem like an odd way to build a friendship, but it works well for us. I have always used books and characters to strengthen my understanding of the world.
I’m so pleased that it’s also given me a bridge to my daughter.