No parent needs to be reminded of the importance of reading to their children. I try to read to mine regularly. Yes, it helps in their brain development and prepares them for school and all those things that are so important. But I’ve also recently discovered that reading to my daughter is teaching her to not fear. I’m not talking about the fear of monsters under her bed. I’m talking about the fear of the unknown. She doesn’t have that fear. I think that fear in large part is a learned behavior.
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is a book that draws in my daughter. The ox-cart man and his family work hard through the seasons to make wares for him to sell in town. “When his cart was full, he waved good-bye to his wife, his daughter, and his son and he walked at his ox’s head ten days over hills, through valleys, by streams past farms and villages. . .” (page 10). Blue mountains and the flaming colors of a New England autumn spread across two pages as the ox-cart man walks a winding road. “I wanna go there, mommy,” she says when we reach that page. “Me too, sweety!” Who doesn’t?
Another favorite book is Read-Aloud Bible Stories Vol. III by Ella K. Lindvall with simple, full-page illustrations by H. K. Puckett. On pages 74 and 75, the sun is rising across a vast, tan desert wilderness where a mass of Israelites are wandering. When I reach that page while reading, she often says “I wanna go there, mommy.” But she’s never been in a desert, so she doesn’t know that deserts can be fearful places. I always say excitedly, “well, maybe we can go there someday!” Really? You want to go to that desert?
Is there any place she doesn’t want to go? I don’t think so. At least not at this age, until she’s learned – from me, or other people, or her own experience – to fear. Fear of unfamiliar tastes, people, places, languages, smells and experiences. The opposite of fear is love. My hope and prayer is that my daughters will love and desire to have new experiences and seek the unknown. Except right now I prefer she was satisfied exploring the unknown through books alone because I fear she will get lost, eat something poisonous, meet ill-intentioned people, poke out her eye with scissors, ruin her clothes, get hurt, choke on something, trip in the street, fall out of the swing. . .