Kristina Beers: Why my free time is ‘booked’

By Kristina Beers

Special to the Pioneer

I have always had a love for reading and have tried to instill this love to my children. Sadly, my thirst for good literature was squelched in my early teens just when I was probably on the cusp of real, meaty, classical tomes that are a delight to the soul and stretch for the intellect. I made a concerted effort to make sure this didn’t happen to the boys, weekly taking them to the library and perusing the shelves for just the book that will take each away into the land of Lilliput, sailing down the Mississippi, or finding out what is on the other Side of the Mountain.

I can see now that they are older, each boy ended his reading career roughly in the same spot I did: early teens. I know this was because while I could eagerly and with great enthusiasm recommend reading for the younger years, I was unschooled in good literature after that. My only point of reference could come in my older years with some of the truly classical “classics,” but missing a great amount of texts in between, I simply didn’t know what to recommend.

Luckily, most of the boys are eager readers individually. Even still, I wish I was able to help them bridge the gap I had to struggle with myself, something I believe most parents make concerted efforts to do: Overcome the shortfalls we find in ourselves as humans, trying to set the next generation on a firmer foundation than we had. This is probably the most difficult task one can undertake, for it requires a great deal of self-reflection and correction. It also takes a tremendous amount of fortitude and reasoning that has nothing to do with emotion, which tends to run amok, especially in women.

I am not of the opinion that I don’t care what my kids are reading as long as they are reading. Just like food, I expect literature to be nourishing, balanced and instill a sense of satisfaction that one made it to the end. Careful reading is a must and I absolutely was “that mom” standing in the library checkout helping my 7-year-old discern whether this book would be a good one to read or pass for now. I’m not so much a banner of books as I am a connoisseur (basically, no Spongebob, Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants books crossed our threshold). Say what you will, but these were our rules.

Currently I am reading no less than five books and am signed up for a Lenten book study which will incorporate a reading list of at least three more. I’m game and excited! I never thought I could be that kind of person who basically has a book in every room of the house, in my purse and in my bag, yet here I am living the dream. I will be honest and say my husband is the complete opposite of me, struggling to even consume one single book a year. This grieves him in his middle age, but with so many unused reading years behind him, it’s hard to break bad habits. Our children, boys in all, have a difficult time with our two extreme tendencies and fall somewhere in the median.

Today Beers Boy No. 5 asked me if “Huck Finn should be banned.”

I immediately responded with a vehement, “No! What’s going on at school? Are they banning it? Who’s saying that? Do I need to pull you from school?” (Ah, yes, my gut reactions are usually quite extreme.)

“NO, MOM! I didn’t say any of that! It was a conversation we had in school. We aren’t banning it, we are discussing banning. Sheesh, mom, why do you have to be so weird about stuff?”

I confess, I am touchy about books and “weird” about good literature. My dear uncle, a discerning collector and voracious reader of good books, died in 2001. He, the single most important influence in my life of reading and books, left a library with a kitchen and bedroom for the rest of us to disperse upon his death. Uniquely a bachelor, he had every room of his house filled with books and an entire library complete with dehumidifiers downstairs. I spent lots of time getting rid of these books when the boys were little and cluttering up my house. Now, I will spend a lifetime trying to get them all back and sharing the wisdom of the ages with my adult children.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

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