On Love for Reading

Dear Portia,

The day I saw you reading a copy of Reader’s Digest by yourself will probably be one of the greatest highs I will ever experience. It feels good to know that I have given you one of the greatest gifts, and that is a developed love for literature. Already, I see you read on your own, picking out books in stores and getting mad when I don’t finish a story. This is quite amazing for a 1-year old. And it’s more amazing that you can already point out pictures and imitate words you’ve heard only once. But slobbering mom aside, it feels good to prove that you can build a culture of reading simply by starting early and giving an example. I myself have been lucky enough to have a mom, your Ama, who has built me a library with some of the most imaginative children’s literature you can get your hands on. Sitting there in our now-joint bookshelves are hardbound copies of Nancy Drew’s, Secret Seven’s, Hardy Boys’, Enid Blyton’s and all the fairytales and versions of them for you to one day discover, read and reread.

Many memories have been built in that bookshelf, between those pages. In kindergarten, when I tried to run away from my grandmother, your great-grandmother, the only thing I brought with me was a copy of Enid Blyton and some clothes placed on a stick just like Bugs Bunny. In second grade, your Ama bought me a nightlight and ever since, I’ve scavenged all the books I can lay my hands on. I read a book a day then. Sweet Valley Twins. Heidi. Greek Mythology. The Secret Garden. Black Beauty. Even adult books. You name it. My eyes have never been the same ever since.

I guess this is also a good time to tell you, before your Papa boasts we derived your name from both of ours, your name was actually gotten from literature figures. Portia came from the protagonist in Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. It may be a little difficult to read at first. Arm yourself with Cliff’s or Baron’s notes. I confess I even had to watch the movie to fully understand it. But be sure to read it if you can. Jo came from Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I chose them because both of them retain very strong qualities, bastions of women power, so to speak, which I hope you will someday come to embody in your own way, as Portia Jo.

It’s important for me, at this point, to not let you read those ‘Once upon a times’ and ‘Happily Ever Afters’. Because the truth is, you will be vastly disappointed. What I can give you is a barrage of real people, poets who can make you tingle with their rhymes, authors with stories so innovative you wonder if their partly real, partly out-of-this-world.

More than anything, Poj, I wish to give you the gift of education. Somebody once told me that the greatest prevention to life’s mishaps is through a book. Of course, I don’t want you to live through books. But I do want you to read through them, learn from them, and prevent some mistakes through their guidance if possible. So, you probably won’t be getting a lot of clothes allowance. Maybe just some change for a movie or ice cream. But yes, you can expect a humongous book allowance on this end. And your library is on the way.

Here are some books I hope to get for you in a span of ten years’ time. We’ll mark it off soon enough. You and I will discover a different world one book at a time:

1. Little Women
2. Original version of Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass
3. Tales of Desperaux
4. A Collection of Robert Frost’s Poems
5. A Collection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Poems
6. Peter Pan
7. Ballet Shoes
8. Charlotte’s Web
9. Chronicles of Narnia series
10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
11. Guess how much I love you
12. Dr. Seuss series
13. The Giving Tree
14. Where the Sidewalk Ends
15. Good Night Moon
16. Winn Dixie
17. Where the Wild Things Are
18. Madeline Series
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
20. A Wrinkle in Time
21. The Boxcar Children
22. The Velveteen Rabbit
23. The Secret Garden
24. Matilda
25. Tuck Everlasting
26. A Little Princess
27. The Black Stallion
28. Black Beauty
29. The Phantom Tollbooth
30. Bridge to Terabithia
31. Inkheart
32. The Hobbit
33. Harold and the Purple Crayon
34. Snoopy and Peanuts series
35. The Little Engine that could
36. Wind in the Willows
37. The Series of Unfortunate Events
38. Are you my mother?
39. A Bear Called Paddington
40. Babar Series
41. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
42. Lassie Come Home
43. Winnie the Pooh Series
44. Anne of Green Gables
45. Mary Poppins Series
46. Swiss Family Robinson
47. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer
48. The Neverending Story
49. The Scarlet Pimpernel
50. Harry Potter Series

Love,
Mom

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