July 2003

Katie Pannarale Fries

bookslut with baby

The Baby's Bookshelf

As of this writing, I have a little less than two weeks to go before my official due date, but the baby is already beginning to acquire a pretty impressive library.

This is, in part, thanks to my co-workers, who gave me books at the baby shower. (What else would you expect from a bunch of people who work for a publishing house?) I left my shower with books ranging from the classic ( Goodnight Moon , in a baby-friendly board book edition), to the age-appropriate (a soft "Baby Einstein" rhyming book), to the ... educational ( All About, courtesy of my boss). Before the shower, some people asked what books I needed. I told them I wasn't very picky. With a few exceptions, all of the picture books I owned as a child live in boxes at my parents' home in California. Add that to the volumes of great children's literature that have been published since I last read picture books, nearly twenty years ago, and that left me open to pretty much anything.

In passing conversation I told one of my co-workers that my collection of Little Golden Books had disappeared. At one time I'd had well over one hundred, but either my father took them to the elementary school where he worked when I moved on to chapter books, or they got lost in a move, and I haven't seen them since. So I was surprised and delighted to receive four new editions of classic Little Golden Books to add to the baby's bookshelf.

The new books have been supplemented with some picture books from my own collection that my parents sent to me, signed editions from local author appearances, and old favorites like The Monster at the End of this Book and Big Bad Bruce. I like the idea of sharing these favorites, books my father read to me in silly voices, with my own baby. I'm not much for the voices, but I know my husband will do a great job on that front.

The bookshelf is by no means complete, and my husband has cautioned me that we don't want to fill it too quickly - we just purchased five bookshelves to house my own collection, and some of my books are still in boxes. Yet I know this collection will grow, whether the books are gifts from grandparents and friends or we buy them ourselves. The library will be a big help, but the truth of the matter is, we're going to acquire massive amounts of children's books. I just can't deprive my kid of books. Besides, the day will come when he will no longer be able to rely on others to keep him in books, and I want to spare him that eventuality for as long as possible.

Right now, my baby is lucky to have so many people who wish him a successful start in reading and who want to help us build his library. But I know from experience that it won't always be like this. Although I use my local library more and more frequently, I long for the days when I could walk into a bookstore with my parents, pick out any book I wanted, and walk out with a brand new book not having spent a dime. I'm envious that my baby will have book benefactors for at least a little while. Count myself among them - I foresee the day when I make the ultimate sacrifice and do something rash like use a Barnes & Noble gift card I received to buy books for the kid instead - because that's what parents do.

I know my reading and purchasing habits are going to change as a result of motherhood, but that doesn't mean reading will be any less exciting or enjoyable. I'm looking forward to sharing all these new and old books and watching as the baby learns to first respond to them, and then to love them as I do.