Being well-read is something important to me, equally as important to reading for fun. In my mind there has always needed to be a balance between learning and leisure, gaining new perspectives and immersing oneself in creativity and fantasy. This is something I hope to pass onto my son.
If he takes after both Scott and me, Garrus will be incredibly creative — driven and thriving on the fantastical, pursuing with great ambition after his imagination. While reading isn’t the only way to do this, for both my husband and I, it was definitely one of the greatest contributors to fostering this trait in ourselves.
I love children’s books. The Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, Dr Seuss, Disney Golden Books, Babar — these were the books of my early years, and I still look on them in fondness and adoration. They make up a large majority of Garrus’s little library, too. But I also want to provide him with more — an introduction to the things that fostered our creativity, as well as expanding his world to include the experiences of those unlike him.
When we went looking for books to invest in, I was happily surprised to have an easier time than I thought in locating books that would achieve those things. Our goal is to stay away from things that force gender stereotypes and instead encourage him to invest in his own interests and desires, while simultaneously helping him understand that it is okay to be a boy and feel like a boy, if that is who he is.
After all, it’s a strange world to navigate these days, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other. While it’s understandable why that has happened, particularly with gender expression and non-conformity, I see a need for a balance. I’ve encountered people on both extremes — those who feel that the only thing kids should be taught is staying in their lane with their sex at birth, and those who feel that anything that represents their sex at birth should be avoided at all costs.
Personally, I have found both to be lacking. Both place children in a box in their own way; one says anything that deviates from black and white thinking on gender is wrong, and the other anything that supports the sex you were born with is wrong. My biggest hope isn’t to cause internal conflict in Garrus, but to empower him to be exactly who he is without fear of embracing himself whoever that may be.
Because of this, I was quite thrilled to find books focusing on men and boys who stayed true to themselves–positive examples of males being males. Books highlighting their accomplishments, pursuits, and courage of without saying “this is how to be a boy”.
Reading is a great place to learn about these things because it provides an opportunity to think on them and grow without the pressures of doing so in spaces where one could be shamed for asking the wrong questions or being interested in the wrong things. Giving him books that expand his world as part of his personal library is something that I hope will provide him with a safe environment to be able to ask those questions, develop those interests, and learn to expand his horizons and worldview.
I also want him to enter some of our favourite worlds from an early age on the leisurely side. To open his doors to the fantastic and magical while he is little. To bring him into our world and give him something to connect with us in one more way.
So far, fostering reading is going well. Although he is only four months old, he has developed an understanding that there is something to do with what is on the pages of a book and my speaking. We read a chapter of the Chronicles of Narnia together every day; he turns the pages for me and tries to “read” (aka looks at the print on the page and babbles) with me. When reading at night, he studies the pages of his picture books with great intensity and focus, then looks to me while I read. When I glance at the book, he looks at the book, following the images.
Though I know this interest could fade at any time, it’s been amazing seeing the delight in his face as we engage on these journeys together. One thing I am looking forward to is when he is old enough to begin shaping his library through his own choices, to see which books he favours, and which things he chooses to learn of his own accord.
Reading is freaking exciting to me, and I’m so pumped to share it with my boy.