This is me reading to my son when he was about 9 months old. I’ve loved this photo for years now without remembering what book it is we’re reading, but when I did remember, the moment was Proustian: I saw again his tiny fingers, awkwardly poised in their proto-attempts to “lift-the-flap,” the sketchily-bright illustrations of a circa-1998 library, complete with enormous computers and books with physical library cards, frequented by a Corduroy who was just bear-ly recognizable as the overall-clad teddy I remembered from my own childhood books. I felt again the blotches of settled sweat peculiar to those long mornings spent in pajamas and glasses, reading to, feeding, and changing my son. Most of all, I felt once again the anticipation of wondering, before each flap was lifted and each page was turned, which images–which words–might make his beautiful, serious little lips smile.
I still feel that anticipation when I read to my kids, even though my son is now seven and his sister-not even born when this picture was taken–is five. I can’t always tell what books they’ll love and what books they’ll hate, even though I consider myself to be at least a little bit of an expert on what makes a book good. My daughter, for instance, currently hates a book, for no clear reason that she’s willing or able to articulate, that appears perfectly charming to me–one authored, in fact, by Don Freeman, creator of Corduroy, the character who so captivated my son in the book pictured in this photo. My children regularly defy any “expert” opinions I might presume to have with their unshakable preferences and dislikes, and they’re constantly making me remember and re-imagine just what it is that makes reading the fun and fascinating addiction that it is.