So there I was, standing in Barnes and Noble, in front of a stocked shelf of board books, trying to remind myself that I was here on a mission, in and out. It wasn’t working. I only needed a Duck and Goose book for my son’s first birthday party and yet I couldn’t seem to focus. There were beautiful, captivating covers that called my name and begged to be picked up, paged through and carried home. I couldn’t seem to say no, I didn’t want to say no. What is it about a board book that just hooks me and makes me want to leave every hard penny on the counter as I struggle to carry a bag filled to the brim home.
Is it the serene, soft colors meant to lull the reader towards a blissful sleep or the vibrant colors meant to stimulate and engage, is it the many stories that recant the beautiful and magical love between a parent and child or perhaps it is the structure of the book itself. The strength and quality that says I will stand the test of time, I will survive the teething stages, the slobbery noses, juice spills, the lost days under the car seats and the toss across the room from the preschooler in mid-tantrum. I will not let you down. That’s comforting in a time when quality is questionable and things fall apart with just a sideways glance.
Maybe it’s something more, maybe it’s the way they’ve marked our journey. Board books were the first books to fill the empty shelves in our oldest’s nursery as that room became his. They stood tall awaiting his arrival and enticing dreams of snuggling in the rocker while sharing stories every night. They were the books that my son pulled into his crib every day from the basket on his floor while he was supposed to be napping. It made me smile when I would walk in his room and find him sound asleep on a pile of board books, not one bit uncomfortable. The board book of Polar Bear, Polar Bear was the first book my oldest memorized and read to us. It is well loved, but still in tact 10 years later. One of my favorite board books, I Love You Through and Through, was bought for each of our children when they were born and it was read over and over those first few months as I acted out the beautiful, yet simple words. On the night of our nephews’ births we gave them the board book On the Night You Were Born and loving inscribed a message welcoming them into the world. There was always a board book in our diaper bag, always one laying on the changing table to soothe a wiggle worm and always one sitting in the car seats of our cars. Board books are woven into the tapestry of our children’s lives and tied to so many beautiful memories along their journeys. These are the books that started their lives as readers.
Which is why I cringe upon hearing an adult tell a child they cannot choose to read a board books because they are for babies. So many boards books have complexity and are intriguing, timeless tales that by no means are written simply for those within the infant stages. Many of our favorite children’s picture books have been made into board books to remind us that even the youngest readers should hear those stories. My 11 year old and 7 year old still have a collection of board books in their rooms and although they may not reach for them with the same frequency as they did at a younger age, they still do and now love to share those tales that captivated them with their 2 younger brothers. My children will grow, too quickly I know, and those board books will begin to collect more and more dust, but in our home they will always have a place on the shelves. I will continually pull them out, not just to share the stories, but the memories, the ones from their early years that they may not remember, but I always will. And hopefully some day I will snuggle up in that rocker again and share those beautiful stories with the next generation.