Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reading – From Generation to Generation

When kids started popping up around the Raffel household, I resolved to do my best to pass along a love of books to them. I started reading to #1 before her first birthday. What a time we had with Anne of Green Gables, The Black Stallion, and so many more! But like a car that’s been push-started, she rolled away with me just watching by the time she was five. #2 lasted a little longer. When she was six, I read her the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone before bedtime. By the time I got home from the office the next day, she’d finished it. That was the end of bedtime stories for her. #3 was reading solo by seven. I think she endured that long because she was feeling a little sorry for me. #4 is a son and I long dreamt of reading him some of my own childhood favorites, you know, the “boy” books. He loved Tarzan of the Apes and Howard Pyle’s King Arthur and His Knights. He tolerated Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys. He rejected Chip Hilton, Howard Pease’s Tod Moran series, and more. Together we discovered a new favorite series which I call “Ingrid” -- Peter Abrahams’ Echo Falls books.

Now #4’s done, too. He'd rather read on his own. In the last couple of weeks, he’s read Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief and its two sequels on his own. The latest Harry Potter, too.

After seventeen years of reading to my children at night, I’m done. A superannuated bedtime reader, that’s me. It’s a long wait till grandkids. Sigh.

OTOH, I can take comfort in this – my mission was accomplished. All four kids are readers. #1 and I even share books. Heck, she came with me to Left Coast Crime and Thrillerfest this year and had a great time at the panels and meeting writers.

All’s not lost. We can have shared experiences with stories so long as we watch them and not read them. This week #3, #4, and I have been checking out old episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. They love them, just as I did. Tonight I’m going to the Stanford Theatre with #4 to see Creature from the Black Lagoon. And this weekend #1 and I are going back to the Stanford to see my all-time favorite, The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart.


P.S. Gentry Magazine’s September issue has a profile of that obscure Palo Alto crime novelist – me. To see it online, go to That's a link to a Flash "reader" of the magazine. At the top of the reader, put in 108 in the "go to page" box. After getting there, just click the next page control at the top of the screen to read the entire piece. Since The Maltese Falcon has already been mentioned, I should warn you that the article contains photos of me doing my damndest to look Bogie-esque. Guess which one of the two below is the real Bogie. (Hint: I don't smoke.)


Felicia Donovan said...

Keith, you touched on something very dear to my heart - the absolute importance of reading to children. My sibs and I were blessed with a mother who loved to read to us until we could fly "solo." We all passed that experience to our own children. We, too, devoured Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Little House, Aesop's, and many, many Golden Books. Remember Golden Books? They were a treasure.

I also miss reading to little ones but am not ready to be a grandma just yet, so instead, I started volunteering in the Children's Room at the local library one night a week. I'm having so much fun rediscovering old and new tales.

Reading from generation to generation - it's the gift that keeps giving...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Very touching and important post, Keith.

I love libraries and spent a lot of time in them as a kid. Even now, I love going to the local library and seeing parents with their children picking out books, and then watching the kids stagger out with their arms loaded down with them.

BTW, is that Hollywood calling asking you to screen test for the remake of The Maltese Falcon?

Anonymous said...

Here's looking at you kid, looking more like Miles Archer than Bogey. Still, the best McGuffin movie ever made.

-Detective Roger Stark
"There are limits to negotiation."

PS. Watch those alleys filled with beautiful dames.

Candy Calvert said...

Great post, Keith. And the article (including photos!) was really well done--congratulations!
How about those picture books that we read over and over? My daughter loved The Berenstain Bears, and to this day remembers how comforting it was when we'd pull them out during thunderstorms . . . hot cocoa and Sister Bear, perfect distraction from Mother Nature's vent.

Keith Raffel said...

Felicia -- Yup, we hit the Nancy Drews and Little House books, too. Volunteering, hmm. Maybe a good idea.

Sue Ann -- I like libraries except for Dot Dead and the Odelia books. People should just buy them! Wouldn't that be just like Hollywood to remake the Maltese Falcon? It cannot be improved upon. I notice a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is coming. I'll bet a fair amount it will not be nearly as good as the original with Kevin McCarthy Dana Wynter.

Anonymous -- I'll have #1 take a close look at Jerome Cowan and see if there is any resemblance.

Candy -- We read the Bears stories, too, but for a story with a lesson I'll take The Paper Bag Princess, an all-time favorite.