“I Cannot Live without Books" – A Homeschooling Mom’s Heart

As a homeschooling bibliophile, I felt the love of reading was one of the greatest gifts I could give them. As I held the first in my arms as an infant, I prayed two prayers over her. First, that she would love Jesus, and second, that she would love books. The two, in my mind, were inseparable, as God identifies Christ himself as “The Word.”

While pregnant with my second child, I read often to the first. I sometimes wonder if my youngest daughter’s favorite childhood books are the ones she heard in utero. After birth, as I spent hours a day nursing the baby, my oldest daughter and I read our way through the Chronicles of Narnia. It was a way to keep her entertained and included in the intimate circle. Instead of envying the time I spent feeding the baby, she would often suggest, “I think it’s time to nurse her,” and hand me the latest book.  

And then there was the day when the youngest, then three, scolded her father as he read to her.

“That’s not the way you do it,” she frowned.

Not realizing there was a right and wrong way to read Madeline, he looked at her in confusion.

“You’re supposed to wrap around,” she instructed, and placed his big arm around her tiny shoulders, settling happily into his embrace. Because he grew up in a non-book-loving home, this was my husband’s first glimpse into the mystery and magic of the family read aloud.

Although the technology wasn’t available when my daughters were young, we would have scorned a portable DVD player in our mini-van. We chronicled our road trips by the books we read. We laughed our way across South Carolina with The Great Turkey Walk, galloped our way to Virginia as companions to The Horse and His Boy, and pilgrimed our way to Williamsburg with Felicity and her American Girl compatriots.

One of our most inspiring faith reads came as we made our weekly two-hour round trip visit my grandmother’s nursing home along with Tom of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Sometimes it was all I could do to force myself to interrupt my daughters’ school day, load them into the van, and drive 60 miles to visit the great-grandmother who was unable to even remember their names. But like Tom, we did it because it was the right thing to do. As we honored her, we honored the Lord. And so we went, with his example cheering us on.

Eager to introduce my husband to the joy of literature that Sesame Street and afternoon television had stolen from him as a young child, we chose readers that had accompanying CD versions so he could listen along with us at work. We’d tell him how far we planned to read that day and threaten him not to read ahead. Later, we talked about the shared adventure over dinner as a way to help him feel like more than just the uninvolved bank roller for our homeschool. Sometimes the story was so exciting he’d cheat and read ahead. Sometimes we did too, but we never confessed.

One Memorial Day, we gathered on the couch to begin our holiday with a few chapters from our newest book, The House of Sixty Fathers. It was a special treat to have Daddy sharing the book in real time with us, and soon he was as captivated as the girls. One chapter led to the next, each one more exciting. My voice grew hoarse, and I threatened to quit. They brought me water and cough drops. Lunchtime came and went, and I again suggested we stop. “NOOOOOO!” they wailed, “we can eat anytime. We have to find out what happens to Tien Pau!!!!!” We persevered. Four hours on the couch with a marvelous book became a Memorial Day we never forgot.

While other parents punished their children by taking away their Gameboys, I punished my children by taking away their books. It was a tragically painful sentence for all of us, and one we reserved for the most serious infractions.