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Alice, reading. Photo by Melissa J. Wilkerson.
At bedtime, I read Alice a story. This has been our nightly ritual since before she was born, but now, after we read together, she reads on her own. She's always loved stories, but more and more she's caught up in words. Almost nightly now she pops out to read her dad and me a short passage: beautiful descriptions, scenes that seem especially funny or apt to her.

Right now she's reading Philippa Fisher and the Dream Maker's Daughter. It's a silly book in a lot of ways, but she likes the main characters, Philippa Fisher and her spunky friend, a fairy named Daisy. She also likes the descriptions of Philippa's funny, hippie-dippy, vegan parents. She popped out one night to laugh and read, "Well, I always had Mom and Dad, I reminded myself. They might be the ditziest dingbats on the planet, but at least they hadn't deserted me."

"Does that remind you of your parents?" I asked.

She laughed again. "You guys aren't dingbats," she said, "but you are a little wacky."

A few nights later, she bursts out of her room with such intensity that, for a minute, I think something's wrong. "Listen to this," she says. "Her family is just like our family! It's hilarious. They're just like us!" She reads:

"Just as well I hadn't said anything, then. Heaven. Normal stuff! The kind of 'up there' people were officially allowed to believe in! Except Mom and Dad had never been big on things like heaven, so I'd never really believed in it, either."

Her excitement is palpable. She's had a revelation. She has seen herself mirrored in this story, put into words and reflected back to herself. Here is another imaginative only child of wacky, atheist, vegetarian, artist parents! Here is proof that she isn't alone.

One of the beautiful things reading gives us, of course, is empathy. Reading lets us imagine what it's like to be someone else, to see the world through different eyes. But it also comforts us by showing us ourselves, by reminding us that others have been where we are, have felt what we feel. It helps us understand our selves.

I remember feeling that sense of self-recognition intensely when I read The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt as an adolescent and when I read Jo Ann Beard's The Boys of My Youth in college. I saw myself more clearly when I read those books, and that was comforting to me. I think it helped me to be a little kinder to myself.

Was there a book like that for you?



 


Comments

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06/21/2014 5:23am

I couldn't agree more...

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04/15/2014 11:53pm

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04/17/2014 8:11pm

The bedtime story should be whimsical plus enchanting, filling a child's thought among awesome thoughts as they potion into slumber. As you fix to write a children's bedtime story, curl up in your favorite sweats, grab a cup of joe plus embrace your situation of relaxation besides comfort.

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05/28/2014 5:02am

Really good post.

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05/28/2014 5:11am

Thank you so much.

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06/17/2014 4:36am

I've almost grown accustomed to almost exclusively watching movies for all my storytelling. Ironically, it's the best selling books that movies are typically based on. I wonder whether that would ruin my experience, actually reading the book before watching the movie.

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07/22/2014 8:33am

Yeah, this sort of things could be funny and interesting. Everyone must have gone through this experience in any part of the life. A movie is also made on this concept starring Jim carrey as the main lead. Thanks.

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08/18/2014 11:57pm

Yep, I sure have the same things going around me while I was reading some books and I'm excited at the times when I see myself over the writings. Thanks for the share.

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09/16/2014 9:48pm


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