Paying it Forward: The Lengths a Nerdy Mom Will Go To by Eileen M. Washburn

FullSizeRenderI’m hoping that someday my children will thank me. Right now, they just think I’m nuts. I write down everything they read. Well, almost everything.  I haven’t included magazine articles and I’m sure I’ve missed some books that were read aloud in class, but if the book has been read in my house or car or been checked out on one of our library cards, I have a record of it. (In my defense, this is the only really weird parenting thing that I do. Their baby books are only half finished and I have no idea how many teeth they’ve lost.)

Why do I do this? It’s a strange combination of OCD and trauma from when my mother gave away all my childhood books to a cousin. I get that she had no way of knowing I would one day become a children’s librarian, but I can’t let it go. I know there were some great things in those boxes that I read, but don’t remember them all. That makes me crazy! So a gift to my daughters when they move out will be a complete list of the books that have shaped their lives.  To them – you’re welcome.

And while they are only mildly interested in my wonderful lists now, I get the added joy of looking back on what we’ve read together, and what books they’ve read at different ages and stages.

I get to follow my older daughter’s descent into girly oblivion from her early interest in Clementine, Just Grace, and Allie Finkle to a hardcore addiction to books with these names on the spines – Schroeder. Mlynowski. Papademetriou. Greenwald. I am returned to the time I tried to read her The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was too young, and surprised when I see that she actually read the first three Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in between her cupcakes and rainbow titles. When I see Charlotte the Sunflower Fairy, I recall sending my husband to the bookstore on his business trip to England because we couldn’t get our hands on her namesake Rainbow Fairies title here.

When I look at my younger daughter’s lists, I see those series that you find on many kids lists – Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries, the I Survived series. I remember that she has blown through all of Raina Telgemeier’s books three times and counting. There are the friends she got to meet that the older one missed out on – Brownie & Pearl. Benny & Penny. Katie Woo.  I am reminded of her affection for Amelia Bedelia, even though she often didn’t ‘get’ the joke, and how one of her favorite picture books was gifted to her from someone who likely bought it at a card store!

There are the books I made them read because I adore them – Charlotte’s Web. Everything by Ezra Jack Keats. Strega Nona. Frog & Toad. We hold the annual reading of Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree because that is one title that was recovered from the missing reading list of my childhood. (A shout-out to the late Judy Delton and Three Friends Find Spring – another recovered favorite. ) There are things they both discovered they loved, independent of my selection – Elephant & Piggie. The Black Lagoon series. The Lemonade Wars. I see that their interest in non-fiction peaked around 4th grade and that in 2010 I fell down on the recording job a lot.

Hopefully, when they are older and I am just old, we can look back and remember the joy of reading about Despereaux, Ivan, and Mo LeBeau together. And how excited they were selecting one of Diane deGroat’s Gilbert books at the school book fair or A Bad Case of Stripes from their own bookshelf.

I also see the titles that haven’t made the lists. We only got through the first few chapters of My Thimble Summer and I see only one or two by Beverly Cleary and Carolyn Keene. But I’m ok with that, because I know I have done what I can to help them to appreciate the gifts a reading life can bring. And when they are older, they will have a record of it all. Mostly.

A friend has me addicted to binge-watching the Goldbergs sitcom on television. I’ll leave you with a quote from their ‘smother’, Beverly Goldberg, who definitely has done her job in paying it forward to her kids.

“You don’t know the things I’ve done for my children. You don’t want to know.”


Eileen has been a Child/YA Librarian in public libraries for over 15 years. She’s always in the process of writing, reading, recommending, or parenting two future Nerdy Book Club daughters. You can find her on Twitter @MsEileen10 and read about her library adventures at