Several weeks before Christmas my 7 year old daughter shared with us that she had found her first love. Those that know her wouldn’t be surprised as this child has had “boyfriends” since age 3, but this time was different. This time I couldn’t have been more excited for her. And her father was not preparing to lock her away in a tower for another few decades. This love will never break her heart, find someone new or leave her in tears. This, hopefully, is a love that will last her a whole life long.
It began with Elephant and Piggie and has continued with Knuffle Bunny and Pigeon. She cannot get enough and spends every night falling asleep with them. She has fallen for her first author. Needless to say her reading specialist mom decided it needed to be a Mo Willems Christmas. Her favorite thing was the Pigeon doll she has snuggled with every night since. She has already read, reread and reread again the 10 new Mo Willems books Santa so knowingly bestowed upon her. My husband thought I may have gone a little crazy and a bit overboard, but I explained, a bit emphatically, how big a moment it is when you fall in love with your first author. This is not just one book, but the many varied works of one person who on some level you have found a deep connection with and with whose characters you have become so familiar and comfortable with it’s as though you’ve know them your whole life.
Mo Willems humorous Elephant and Piggie books are where my daughter found both her voice in reading and discovered how to use voice in her writing. Her expressive reading of one of those books almost brought me to tears the first time I heard it (fluent reading has been a bit elusive for her). She brought those characters and their personalities to life in only the way a 7 year old in love could have. I was no match. Several days before Christmas she brought us a new story she had written, this girl averages 2 stories a week and beautiful love notes to her family daily. The story was one she had authored herself about Elephant and Piggie. As she read the story aloud to me I sat there in awe of the strong voice that came through her tale that perfectly matched the personalities Mo Willems had so beautifully crafted. Not only was her love for him driving her life as a reader, but he had become a mentor author for her without her ever knowing.
Books are already treasures celebrated daily in our house, but finding that first love, that’s a milestone that doesn’t exist on any developmental chart. It should be celebrated, encouraged and shared as the significant moment it is. Hopefully my daughter will fall in love many times over in her life as a reader. Those loves may some day give her comfort when the tears from a much more complicated love fall.