Over the summer my girlfriend and I went on an epic road trip that took us to some fantastic destinations like Vancouver, Victoria, Tofino and Saltspring Island. Before departing from Tofino for Saltspring I started looking up accommodation online. I don’t know what I entered into google but “Between the Covers Bed and Breakfast” was one of the first links I clicked on and ultimately the place we stayed. What sold me on that particular B&B? The subtext that read “a booklovers B&B.” It was like the universe had preordained it. Little did I know how replete with truth that statement would be.
The B&B is set in an absolutely idyllic location about 5 minutes from downtown Ganges but what made my stay there so serendipitous was the owner Margriet Ruurs, a children’s book author with a fabulous life story. As I was on a journey of inquisition this summer I constantly bombarded her with questions from “why are the chicken’s eggs brown? to “how did you get started as an author?” Margriet was patient, enthusiastic and generous with her answers and wisdom. She even sent me away at the end of our stay with a parting gift! A book, of course.
Since that fateful stay I have a) encouraged Andrew to join the coast guard so we could move to Salt Spring and b) been dreaming about children’s books, furtively scribbling ideas down in a notebook whenever they pop into my head (I have an entire series worth starring Coop dawg the hero and Teddy his silent but trusted companion). So, the theme of a baby shower I recently attended was right up my alley: “Baby’s First Library”.
In preparation for the event, I spent a good hour flipping through children’s books at the bookstore, enjoying anew those published since my childhood and relishing in the wave of nostalgia brought on by those old familiar titles, books so ubiquitous to the average (Canadian?) child’s development they are practically synonymous with childhood – Good Night Moon, Runaway Bunny, I Love You Forever, anything by Dr. Seuss and anything by Robert Munsch. But there were others too, titles that consume much larger portions of the book repository in my brain – Balloon Tree, Madeline (maybe this is where my adoration of Paris comes from??), The Giving Tree, Are You My Mother, the Berenstein Bears, Tikki Tikki Tembo, Curious George, Judy Blume… and on and on.
As I wandered around the children’s section I started thinking how great it was to see so many kids around and so many children’s books. In a time where all printed media is in danger of being enveloped by the mammoth of electronic media it made me feel that these beautiful, hard bound pieces of artwork were immune to this risk. I know the invention of devices such as Leapfrog have created a new learning niche but can they really replace the tactile stimulation of books for children? Who doesn’t remember flipping open an creature in a pop-up book, or rubbing the fuzzy patch on an animal in a touch-and-feel book or seeing the “eaten” pages of The Hungry Caterpillar or really, even just the feeling of being the sibling who got to turn the page while mom or dad read the book aloud.
As I looked around though I realized that not all of the shelves in the children’s section were actually occupied by books. A lot of them were filled with Lego, puzzles, games, books of stickers and various toys. Perhaps books aren’t holding the attention of children raised in this digital age; kids who probably have an email address, facebook account, cellphone and itunes account all before junior high. Imagination is a powerful thing and it can overcome the medium, I believe, but in a developing mind, a mind that requires nurturing is there anything better then an illustrated book that can be carted from school to home, from bath to bed, traded and shared, memorized and past on?
I don’t have my own children yet and would hate to consider myself a luddite but I just don’t think a toy or electronic reader can replace a book for a child. So it was both a relief and an honour to be a part of a book-themed baby shower last week. I hope this is more of a trend than I know and that the joy of reading continues to get passed on to those young and old.
And congratulations to the baby’s momma! 😉