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May 11, 2018

Karen White: Raising a Bookworm

This year’s Mother’s Day Author Blog series wraps up with a heartwarming piece from New York Times bestselling author Karen White, whose new novel, DREAMS OF FALLING, releases on June 5th. Karen was a voracious reader growing up, but sadly her mother didn’t share her passion for books. While pregnant with her first child, Karen of course prayed for a happy and healthy baby, but she also made it clear that she wanted to give birth to a reader. Sure enough, her bookish wish came true! Here, Karen shares some wonderful memories of reading with her daughter…and explains what happens when a bookworm wants to redecorate her room.


My less-than-rebellious teenaged self skipped school only once, and that was to read GONE WITH THE WIND. My mother had seen me reading it, and had promptly told me that it was inappropriate for a seventh grader and to return it to the library. I didn’t. As legend has it, that was the day I decided I wanted to be a writer. Or become Scarlett O’Hara.

Sadly, my mother didn’t share my passion for books, and I felt that loss all through my growing-up years. When I was pregnant with my first child, I prayed for a healthy and happy baby. But I also made it clear that I wanted to give birth to a reader. I read to my baby in utero just to get him or her used to the idea.

When my daughter was born, I was stealthy at first, stocking the nursery with all the usual suspects: GOODNIGHT MOON, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, STELLALUNA and, of course, ONE FISH TWO FISH RED FISH BLUE FISH. Reading was part of our daily ritual, and as she grew, so did her voracious appetite for more books. With glee I signed her up for children’s book clubs and obtained her very own library card. When her brother arrived, she happily read to him from her own bookshelves (although she wouldn’t let him touch them since they were hers).

Still, I was wary. Didn’t every child love to read? Wouldn’t there come a time when she’d put books aside in favor of television or another electronic device? Her brother eventually did, and while he still enjoys the occasional book, he was never the reader his sister was. But while the gleam was still in my daughter’s eyes at the mere mention of reading time, I scoured used bookstores in my quest to stockpile my favorite childhood books, many out-of-print, anticipating and hoping my daughter would continue her love of reading as she grew from nursery school books to chapter books. Dog-eared copies of TIME AT THE TOP, THE SWING IN THE SUMMERHOUSE, TWIN SPELL and my entire collection of Nancy Drew books sat on the top bookshelf in her room, waiting for her.

When I finally realized she was at the right age, I placed TIME AT THE TOP in her little hands, and she read it in a day. We talked about it on the way to school, and she still wanted to discuss it on the drive home. I searched for the sequel and paid way more than I should have, but she and I both needed to know what happened next.

I was absolutely giddy the day I realized that the best way to discipline my daughter was to take away whatever book she was reading and force her to watch television. My suspicion that I had indeed given birth to a bookworm was enforced when she chose her first email address: CrazedReader.

When she was in seventh grade, she asked to read GONE WITH THE WIND. She knew the story of me skipping school to read it, and she let me know that she’d been waiting until she was the same age as I had been. I let her read my personal copy, knowing she’d handle it with care.

As she grew older and we redecorated her room, she wanted a room that spoke to who she was. Naturally, that meant books. I hired an artist friend to paint books on the walls falling from the ceiling, my daughter’s favorite titles printed on the covers and spines, her favorite quotes arching like rainbows around them. It was then that I really knew my prayers had been answered.

My daughter is an adult now, living far away in another city, lamenting the fact that she can’t afford all the books she’d like to buy. I miss her terribly, but I feel very connected to her as we talk about books we love, and I send her signed books from my author friends. I also turn a blind eye when I see charges on my credit card statement from bookstores. I suppose it’s like skipping school to read a book. Is that a punishable crime? I think not. I’m years away from becoming a grandmother, but in anticipation, I have stored all of my children’s books in labeled containers in the basement. The books and I wait, looking forward to the next generation of bookworms, knowing that with me as their grandmother, they won’t have a choice.