I was the brainy, glasses-wearing kid in elementary school who always had her nose in a book.

By the time I was 4 years old, I'd mastered the ABCs and moved on to "Tat and Tam" primers, at which point my parents realized they had a spectacular reader on their hands and started stocking my bookshelves with Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

In elementary school, I gobbled down Beverly Cleary novels and Judy Blume books, reading the same ones over and over again until the pages tattered and the covers clung by a thread. My parents weren't big readers but my aunt plied me with her favorites, mostly Stephen King thrillers and ghost stories that raised eyebrows in my fourth-grade classroom.

I remember my sixth-grade teacher having a nervous conference with my mother about my book report on "Clan of the Cave Bear," fearing that it wasn't appropriate for the other children.

Moments in my life have been defined by the books I was reading at the time. Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik series about an awkward adolescent helped me through my own awkward adolescence. Judy Blume's "Tiger Eyes" depicted a teenage girl struggling to cope with her father's murder, which resonated with my own turbulent high school years.

And every one of the hundreds of books I read in college defined those irritatingly liberal years of sitting around in coffeehouses with all the other English majors contemplating the feminist underpinnings of lesbian pulp fiction.


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My graduate school book collection displays a shift to policy and politics. Books on the Balkan wars. Pop economics. A John Kennedy biography.

Now my bookshelf has come full circle, back to Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss.

We started reading to my son even before he could hold his head straight.

Every night, I'd put him to bed with "Good Night Moon," reading the same words every night with the same inflection until I'd memorized every syllable and my son could imitate the tones in baby babble.

When he tired of the old lady whispering hush, I read him "Where the Wild Things Are" and delighted that he loved it as much as I did.

These days, my 3-year-old selects his own books before bed. Even at his young age, he has his favorites, usually anything with trucks, trains or construction equipment like "Good Night, Good Night Construction Site" or "A Train Goes Clickety-Clack."

He'll sometimes take a half-hour selecting the book he wants to read, and, even then, it's tough to choose just one. He begs for another story, just one more, and it's hard to say no. Sometimes if it's late and I just want to get him to bed, I try to blow off reading time, but the kid throws a fit.

With November being National Literacy Month, I'm reminded to take the time.

The National Educators Association tells parents to read to their preschoolers every day because those kids do significantly better in school than those who didn't have regular reading time.

And little by little, I see the benefits. Now my son wants to read to me.

So I sit back in our chair as he finds words to go with the pictures or cobbles together the story from memory. One day, he won't need me at all.

He'll just crawl into bed, turn on the night light and read himself to sleep as I did so many years ago.

In that time, he'll form his own memories with the books, recalling with fondness how "Wheels on the Bus" defined his "transportation period." And maybe a small piece of him will recall - however fleeting the memory might be - rocking in my arms whispering good night to two little kittens and a pair of mittens, a bowl of mush, and even the old lady whispering hush.

Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.