Happy Young Readers Day!

I hope I never forget the feeling I had as a fifth grader when I finished the last page of Little Women. I was hiding in the empty “Mothers Lounge” at our church while my stepdad worked outside hanging Christmas lights on the trees and building. Tears streamed down my face, not because the ending was especially sad, but because the book was over and I would no longer be able to hang out with the March family whenever I wanted. I was in fifth grade, and tired of saying goodbyes to people.

Books got me through the challenges of my childhood in a way that nothing else could have.

Happy Young Readers Day! | Houston Moms Blog

Friendlessness

When I was eight years old my mom boarded a plane with her four young kids, her mother, and one-way tickets. I was the oldest. We moved from inner-city Salt Lake City {there was an empty lot on our street, abandoned after a house fire. A homeless man took up residence there, announcing to us all every time we passed that he was building a space station}, to an unincorporated area outside of Haines City, Florida. It was like I’d stepped into another planet. One with humidity, green everywhere, fire ants, and kids who spoke what seemed to be a foreign dialect.

I was bussed to Bethune Elementary School {named for the phenomenal Mary McLeod Bethune, whom I came to learn about and admire} on “the other side of the tracks,” and was one of the few white kids in the school. I was different. I knew it, and everybody else did, too. I instantly went from being the girl who started kickball games and picked teams to the girl who let the other kids skip her in the line so she wouldn’t have to go up to the plate. That Christmas I was given a copy of Anne of Green Gables from my grandma. I made friends with Anne Shirley and admired her close friendships and her gumption. I had neither.

I related to Charles Wallace and admired Meg amid the pages of A Wrinkle in Time. Sometimes my mom {my superhero through her single-parenting years} would carve out time to read some of the Time Quintet series with me. I think this is why I have always loved them.

Family Troubles

Divorce and step-parents are rough. Especially when they all seem to fight all the time. I escaped into the March family {Little Women}. I became a member of their harmonious family instead. I loved the family so much I read every subsequent book in the series. I wasn’t ready to let go and face reality.

Happy Young Readers Day! | Houston Moms Blog

My heartache shrank in comparison to Jess’ grief in Bridge to Terabithia or Billy’s in Where the Red Fern Grows. I realized that I was not the only person in the world with a broken heart and that I, too, could be strong and carry on. I began to think that maybe my strength might inspire someone else.

Poverty

I didn’t have many books when we moved because we could only bring what would fit in our bags on the airplane. We didn’t even have a car. I checked out books from the school library {and later when we moved to the town of Dundee, from the town library housed in a tiny building that looked like a mobile home from the outside} every chance I got. I read biographies, laughed at the antics of Amelia Bedilia, dreamed variations of The Little Prince, cringed when Ramona cracked the egg on her forehead, and shrieked when Fudge swallowed a turtle. We had no money for cable {and we sure didn’t get many channels where we lived} or Nintendos or travel. But I saw the world and had countless adventures via books.

Happy Young Readers Day! | Houston Moms Blog

Dodging Bullies

My first book fair purchase saved me–literally. I bought a discounted copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Since it was one of the few books I actually owned, I memorized its contents. One day, the high school bus was running late so the high school boys were still at their bus stop when we arrived at ours {which was basically in the same place}. These boys were mean and my little brother and I usually avoided them like a busy highway. They were loud and dangerous. But now we were stuck at the bus stop and there was nothing we could do. One of the boys started messing with us and trying to take our backpacks. Do you know what stopped them? I recited the words to Don’t You Ever Laugh as the Hearse Goes By to them. They loved it! At their request I recited it over and over {I even put a tune to it} until their bus finally arrived and we were safe.

Looking Back

Now that I am a mother, I am forever grateful for the books that brought me safely through childhood and adolescence. Though I am giving my all to my five young children, I know that I often fall short and alone am not enough to teach them all that they need to be successful adults {don’t get me wrong, I’m giving it my all}. For this reason, I am so grateful that there are still books. I am grateful that these books and I can work together to raise these little humans to persevere and seek to be and do their very best. That is why we spent nap times reading the Narnia books. My kids loved Pippi Longstocking long before they saw her movie. And this summer, with tears in my eyes, I shared A Wrinkle in Time, just like my mom did with me all those years ago.

I’d like to think that I am there for my kids and that they know–always–how very much I love them and pray for their success. But for all of my inadequecies, I’m so thankful for Ramona and Anne Shirley and the March family and countless other fictional {and some not fictional} characters who will help my children become who they are meant to be.

Happy Young Readers Day! | Houston Moms Blog

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at AliMcJoy.com, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This really, really touched me. Thank you for sharing! Anne Shirley, the March family, and books were very much a part of my childhood too!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, Alissa. My young life experiences were very different from yours, yet I could relate in so many ways. The joys of good books got me through many lonely times in my life and made my life richer and happier than I can even put into words!

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