The Greatest Gift of All by Michael Carton

As a first grade teacher and a lover of books, one of the biggest selling points when my wife (Rebecca) and I were house shopping a few years ago was the modest branch library less than two blocks from our house.


At the time, we didn’t have a child, but I couldn’t help but imagine walking our future son or daughter to the small library to check out books and attend story time.


About a year later, Rebecca gave me the greatest gift a man could ever receive – a son!


During the nine months leading up to Michael Jr.’s arrival, Rebecca and I bought a bookshelf for the little guy’s room and stocked it with some of our favorites (like Curious George, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Corduroy, Stone Soup, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, tons of Dr. Seuss books, and a whole bunch more – thanks to Border’s going out of business sale!)


By the time Michael Jr. (A.K.A. Bubba) was born in September of 2011, we had already filled the entire bookshelf (and bought a second bookshelf for the overflow).  Family and friends commented that we had very few toys for our little guy, but we definitely had enough books!


For the first year and a half of his life, Rebecca and I read the books on Bubba’s shelves aloud to him, and he loved it!  I even read The Little Prince to him when his uncle (who was in France at the time) sent a toy airplane from the book.  Some of my favorite memories with the little guy were reading to him during those early months.


All of that reading must have instilled a love for books in Bubba because when Rebecca would get ready for work in the morning, he would sit in his crib with a stack of board books and quietly flip through them page by page.


When I would get home from work, he would run to his pile of books, pick one out, bring it back to me, sit in my lap, and wouldn’t leave until I read it to him.  Once I read it, he would get up, pick out another book, and repeat the process until we read every book in the pile.


Needless to say, you would think that we couldn’t have been happier with his love of books!  Well, we were… but there was a catch!  All of those books that Rebecca and I bought before Bubba was born began to be read a 3rd, 4th or 5th time (or in the case of books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, we had probably read some books more than one-hundred times).


Now don’t get me wrong, I love reading to Bubba… but I was getting tired of reading the same books over and over.  I thought about going out and buying some new books, but with a teacher’s salary, I didn’t have the money to keep buying books (especially while we were still buying diapers)!


Somewhere along the way, our busy lives as teachers and parents made us think we didn’t have time to walk Bubba over to the small library that we were so excited about when we bought our house.  It’s hard to believe, but the thought of taking Bubba to the library a couple times each week began to fade.  It was almost embarrassing that we weren’t using the library more, so I decided to do something about it.


I came up with a plan and decided that Bubba and I were going to try to read every picture book in our library – a journey that I’m figuring will take at least a couple years to complete.


To make things easier on me, I decided that we’d pull books in alphabetical order (by authors’ last names) and “read the library” one shelf at a time. Our blog ( tries to capture this journey and will help us remember some of the many things we learn throughout the experience.


I hope that by writing about our experiences, we can inspire other parents and grandparents to enjoy the gift of reading with a child and to take full advantage of their local libraries.

Michael Carton is a first grade teacher, husband, father, and “Big.”  In his spare time, he serves as President-Elect for the Blackhawk Reading Council, coaches a FIRST LEGO League team, moderates #EdBookTalk on Twitter, and volunteers for WQPT-PBS, 4-H, Adopt-A-Highway, and more.  In his free time, does yard work, enjoys his wife’s delicious baking, and reads.  He blogs at