Welcome. I’m guessing as a parent you may be reading this at an ungodly hour after you’ve done your 90th load of laundry, packed lunches, and spent an hour trying to remember where you put the permission slips that may have been due yesterday. (The good news is that in looking for them you found 14 birthday party invites you have yet to respond to. And–even better news!–seven of them are on the same day!).
I’m a children’s book publisher at Simon & Schuster. I’m also a mother and that has definitely changed and shaped my publishing perspective. Being a publisher and a parent (sometimes at the same time) gives me an interesting perspective on what I choose to read to my children and how I react to books my kids want to read (sometimes not favorably).
When I had my first child, like all new parents, all it took was one (albeit adorable) red-faced baby at 3 a.m. screeching for no real discernible reason to let me know that as a parent I knew absolutely nothing. That’s the thing about kids: They are the great levelers. The one thing I thought I had covered was reading. After all, I had a good amount of experience choosing which books to publish, selecting manuscripts and rejecting others. And all it took was one (albeit adorable) red-faced, screeching baby batting away a book to let me know that I was apparently not doing that correctly either. My kids hated books I thought they’d love. Books that I thought were aged perfectly as an editor somehow didn’t actually work with the child on my lap. And even I was overwhelmed in the bookstore, trying to find titles that would spark a lifetime love of books.
There is a good amount of utter helplessness, especially in the first year of parenting. Things like getting a baby carrier in and out of a car somehow required NASA-level preparations. I distinctly remember being out for the first time with my newborn and stopping short because I simply couldn’t figure out how to open the door to a store and get the stroller inside. I realize this sounds ridiculous… until you try to do it. (And, no, I’m not talking about the automatic doors.) In desperation I asked my oldest friend who thankfully became a parent before me. “Backwards!” was her response. “Are you trying to go in with the stroller first? No, no no!” Ahhhhh, yes. Open door, hold with hip, pivot around. Much better than attempting an arm range of three feet and pushing the stroller ahead of you.
Other parents have been my best resource. They will tell you things no one else will, like sometimes you need to go backwards to go forwards. (Seriously none of those expecting books—and I read them all—talked about how to get a stroller inside.). They will tell you that a vacuum cleaner can work as well as a fancy sound machine and that your child will use the expensive ExerSaucer thing for exactly 2 weeks and you will spend 2 months stubbing your toe on it. They will tell you that 3 is way, way harder than the rumored terrible twos (especially if you are bragging that you skipped that stage. Note: You never skip a stage. It just hits you in the butt later. And harder.). They will commiserate with you on which sucks more to step on barefooted, a Lego (which hurts) or a Cheerio (ugh, the mess).
Being a publisher hasn’t always served me well as a parent. I’ve had to learn to go in backwards. A lot. And while I’ve learned a few things along the way, I don’t pretend to be a reading expert, an educational authority, or remotely have the final say in what makes great children’s literature or what you should be reading. When I reviewed some of the lists of recommended books in my posts my reaction as a publisher was, “Good lord, that is one random list.” And as a publisher I kept thinking, “Wait, what about that title? And this title might be better…”
But this blog isn’t about recommending what I’d read if I was simply curating a list of the best literature. It’s about what my kids love, what works in our house, and how I react to that as their mother, who happens to be a publisher.
As one parent to another, this blog is meant to be a way of sharing some advice, suggesting some great books, and an attempt to try to make you feel supported in raising a reader. Think of it as asking—one parent to another—how to open the door.
I hope you’ll come in,