This past summer, a close friend of mine gave me a book recommendation. The two of us have exchanged titles with one another for years now, always books for our own reading pleasure. This time, the suggestion was for my daughters. We had just spent an entire day together with our kids and she thought that my girls, especially my oldest, might like the story of The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.
We not only share a love for reading and have similar tastes in books, but she’s a former elementary teacher and has three amazing kids of her own. I quickly put her recommendation on my reserve list at the library and was excited when it was ready for pick up. When I flipped through it, it looked a bit above my 2nd grader’s reading level.
For quite a while now, our bedtime routine has graduated to a bunch of kisses and a few minutes of cuddle time, after which the girls have ten minutes of reading time on their own. This has worked well for us all, since it gets my husband and I out of their room quicker, (so we can catch up on Breaking Bad and Top Chef), while the girls feel grown up with their snazzy clip-on reading lights. I decided to stray from the routine and start this book by reading it to them at bedtime, for just a few minutes, just a few nights and then see how interested they’d be in it.
So, on one summer night, we nestled in and began to read about the adventures of the Penderwick Family, a story about four sisters, their father and a dog named Hound. The girls range in age from five to twelve years old with a variety of personalities and quirks. The book begins with a summer adventure where we quickly get to know each of them, learn about the untimely passing of their mom and how their father does his best to raise them in a home full of love, support and fun.
Pretty soon, my daughters and I were completely sucked into the story, and with each page we turned, we fell more in love with the characters. A few minutes of reading quickly turned into a full a chapter each night and oftentimes, we’d find ourselves being reminded by my husband that it was way past bedtime. He frequently pokes his head in to see what on earth is so funny that it has the three of us giggling – and even howling – at times.
The story is about family, friendships, misadventures, hopes, and lots of hilarious experiences. Every night, the three of us look forward to this new bedtime routine and I honestly enjoy it as much as the girls do. Despite the great ending, when we turned the last page, we were all very sad for it to be over.
I happily realized the next day that there were two more books in the series. I surprised the girls a week later with the next book and you would think it was Christmas. We delved into it that very night and picked up with the story of the Penderwick family back home, after their summer vacation. We followed them through trials and tribulations of the school year, their friendships and even a love story for the dad and a crush for the oldest sister.
We’re now halfway into the third book and we’re still just as engrossed, each night. We’ve learned that the author is working on the fourth book and plans on having a total of five in the series. The only problem is that it takes her about three years to write each book, so there will be quite a gap between when we finish this one and go on to the next. My daughter has already written to the author to let her know just how much she loves her work and how she can’t wait for the next book!
I can’t help but wonder if there’s any possibility that my girls will still want me to read the fourth book with them, 3 years from now. I have my fingers crossed that despite the passage of time, they will have the same fond memories as I do, and we’ll be back nestled in their beds, three years from now, starting book number 4.
Like most parents, we were proud (and relieved) when we reached the milestone where bedtime didn’t require a ton of time or work. These books have taken me back in time, with bedtimes now lasting a lot longer. While it means a little less adult time for my husband and I, I’m cherishing it. I know the nights of my girls wanting me to read to them will be over in a blink of an eye. I love seeing them completely enamored with the story and invested in the characters. I hope that this shared experience will foster their love for reading, their passion for writing, and will continue to expand their imaginations. I want them to get excited about authors and genres and love the feeling of getting lost in a good book. I want them to build their own libraries and treasure their favorite stories. I want them to be excited to share books with their friends.
Over the past few months, hearing them laugh out loud and wonder what will happen next in the story has been priceless for me. They have been able to jump into these books and completely forget about their homework assignments or arguments with each other. It has been a wonderful escape for the three of us.
With only 100 pages to go on the last book, I find myself reading a bit slower now, wanting the book and the experience itself to last just a tiny bit longer. I have no doubt there will be many other books in their lives, which will make a lasting impact on them. For now, I’m so happy to have witnessed and experienced their first love for a great book and I couldn’t be more thankful to my dear friend for giving me such a special and unexpected gift to share with my daughters.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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