Little Acorn, written by Melanie Joyce

I’ve always thought this was one of my best ideas ever. 

When my oldest son, Ian, was born, I created an instant family tradition: birthday books! 

For each birthday, I would lovingly select the closest I could get to the perfect book for each boy (pretty soon, there were three of them) and write an inscription in the front along with the date.

As time went on, each boy had a growing library of birthday books, in some cases reminding them of what they were crazy about at the time. There was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, My Father’s Dragon, Dinotopia, the first Harry Potter book (I had ordered a copy from England, but Scholastic Books published it in the US before the copy arrived from the UK), the first in the Redwall series, books on basketball and on and on.

Dylan used to occasionally pull all of his birthday books off the shelf and admire his collection—a real treasure—which continues to grow in adulthood with each birthday.

A related family tradition was reading aloud to the boys every night before bed, which I did until they were 15 years old. Since there were 7 years between the oldest and youngest, it got a bit tricky finding appropriate reading material and a little quick, on-the-spot editing occurred from time to time.

For instance, Gloria Whelan’s spellbinding Homeless Bird, the story of Koly, a 13-year old girl pressed into an arranged marriage, included a passage about marijuana that wasn’t read aloud. But the story really resonated with the boys, and the minute I finished reading it they began chanting, Read it again! Read it again! And we started again at the beginning that very moment.

Every year at back-to-school night, when teachers would implore parents to read aloud to their children, I would happily feel…smug. ????

Each of the boys became a prodigious reader AND writer. To this day, I believe there is no better training for writers than hearing books read aloud. Experiencing the rhythm, tone, pacing, texture, and color of spoken words is indelible.

The book pictured above, Little Acorn, written by Melanie Joyce, illustrated by Gina Maldonado, and published by Autumn Publishing, was loaned to me by my neighbors, the Roses. It is a most delightful book, especially for us tree lovers, and would make a perfect gift for a small person in your life. 


Photo by Jo Cooper