Building Connections through Family Reading
by Megan Dowd Lambert
illustrated by Mia Saine
Imagine! (Charlesbridge), 2023. 160 pages.
Review written December 4, 2023, from a library book.
Book Bonding is a collection of essays about the joy and wonder of reading to and with your kids, but especially about the powerful connections you can build that way. The author is a children’s literature professor and a mother of seven, so she has lots of experience with this topic.
Here’s an excerpt from the Preface that captures well what she’s doing in this book:
So how can I best bridge the distance that exists between my children and me, while I recognize and celebrate that they are their own human beings and not “mine”? How can other parents and caregivers do so, too? My multiracial, adoptive, queer, blended family life affirms that familial bonds are rooted not only in biology but in legal measures, choices, and above all, in shared experiences and love.
This is where “book bonding” comes in. I coined this phrase during my time as an educator at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in western Massachusetts. It highlights the social and emotional impact of shared reading in classrooms and libraries. It’s a happy truth that my work as an author, educator, and children’s-literature scholar is deeply enriched by my life as a mother. The books on my family’s bookshelves hold not just words and pictures but also memories of time spent together and of moments when reading and talking about reading have helped us better understand each other. In other words, books have helped us bond.
Time and again, shared reading has forged a common ground for my children and me as we reach toward each other across the distances between us. Witnessing my children’s minds and hearts in action when we read together — or when we discuss books we read separately — gives me a greater appreciation for their individuality. This, in turn, helps me be a better parent, attuned to my kids’ specific needs, strengths, and interests….
I’m convinced that the sort of book bonding that my family experiences is similar to that of anyone who reaches out to the children in their life with a book in hand. I hope my essays will enrich your family’s reading and perhaps inspire you to write down some of the book-bonding memories and connections you’ve created when you and a child have met in the pages of a book.
The essays themselves are beautiful. Yes, they will inspire you to read with kids.
This book is a good defense against book banners, too. In her multiracial family, she talks about reading and discussing books with her white kids and her Black kids and talking with all of them about how diversity is portrayed in books. Diverse books get adults and kids thinking and talking.
She talks about specific books that inspired her kids and tells stories about their interactions with books. Yes, you’ll learn about specific wonderful children’s books here — and there’s a list of books mentioned at the back.
I also love the way she models talking with kids about books. She gets the kids’ perspectives on how books are mirrors and windows for them, and gets insights from the kids that she wouldn’t have noticed on her own.
I read this book too slowly — an essay now and then as I had time, and I didn’t have much time because I was reading for the Morris Award. But whenever I did dip into it, I was reminded of the power, beauty, and joy of reading with kids, and this made my children’s librarian heart happy.
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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
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