Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Passing a love of books onto the next generation November 30, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My granddaughter with a book.


I HAVE ALWAYS loved books. Always. They have taught, inspired, uplifted, entertained and challenged me and so much more.


I didn’t have many books as a young child because my parents couldn’t afford them. But I had this one, which I recently spotted (and should have bought) at a Pequot Lakes antique shop


A favorite childhood storybook, Three Billy Goats Gruff, instilled in me a fondness for goats and for fairy tales. And a beginning reader book, Joey the Kangaroo, endeared me to kangaroos. As my reading skills advanced, I treasured my hardcover copies of Little House on the Prairie, The Bobbsey Twins, Little Women and The Five Little Peppers.

Somewhere in that time-frame I discovered Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Those series led to a life-long love of mysteries, my favorite genre.

I thrilled in bringing home book orders from school and ordering a paperback or two to add to my bedroom bookshelf. Even though money was tight in our family, Mom allowed me to select books like Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle and Other Modern Verse.


When Izzy visits, she often heads straight for this basket crammed with 14 books (current count) and a few toys. While I washed dishes one morning, she pulled the books from the basket one-by-one and “read” each one.


When I became a mom in 1986 and birthed more children 21 months and six years later, my time to indulge in leisurely reading vanished. Instead, I found myself with a baby or child on my lap or snuggled next to me on the couch with hardboard and picture books in hand. When my eldest turned six, I was already reading The Little House and Betsy-Tacy series to her and her four-year-old sister.


When Izzy opened an I Spy book, I showed her how a matchbox bus matched the photo. I said the word “bus,” then repeated myself. At 20 months, she’s learning new words at a rapid pace.


I hold dear those memories of reading to Amber, Miranda and Caleb. All three of my kids love to read. Miranda fixated on horses for awhile, our local librarian Mary Jane always on the watch for new equine books.


I love this photo of Izzy “reading.” She didn’t even notice me with my camera, so engrossed was she in her book.


Reminders of those youthful passions for reading linger in bookshelves packed with science fiction and fantasy books in Caleb’s former bedroom. My son also frequented the nonfiction section of the local library seeking out books to teach himself juggling, magic tricks, computer programming and more. He loves to learn and never wanted to wait for a teacher to teach him. Today, with a computer science degree, he works in that field and continues to pursue learning. He holds an innate desire and passion for knowledge.

Both of my girls worked in the local library while in high school and later at their respective college libraries. They have never been far from books—whether listening to stories read at home or at library story hour, participating in summer reading programs, filing books on library shelves or simply just reading on their own.


One of Izzy’s favorite books to read at my house is All Year Round With Little Frog. When she pushes on the plastic frog, it squeaks. I read this book to Izzy’s Uncle Caleb more than 20 years ago.


My kids are grown and gone now. But the importance of reading remains, circling back now to the next generation. My granddaughter, Isabelle, loves to page through books and to be read to by her parents and others who love her, including me. She’s already completed her first summer reading program, attends storytime at the library and has a significant collection of books.


My husband, Randy, reads to his granddaughter during an overnight stay at our house several months ago.


Izzy has received, says my librarian friend Kathleen, “the gift of generational literacy.” I’ve never thought of the continuum of loving books in that way. But I love that phrase. “Miss Izzy loves books because you instilled that love in her mom (and her sister and brother)…and now, another generation benefits…and on and on,” Kathleen observed. Izzy’s daddy, too, enjoys reading, a gift of generational literacy also passed from his family.


Izzy pages through her mama’s childhood book, Moo, Moo, Peekaboo.


To watch Isabelle page through books I once read to her mama, aunt or uncle brings me much joy. The words I read some 30 years ago tumble from my memory as I hold Izzy close and recite from memory Moo, moo! Peekaboo, we see you, cow!


TELL ME: Have you received the gift of generational literacy and/or passed that gift along?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


49 Responses to “Passing a love of books onto the next generation”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I definitely have received the gift of generational reading. Both of my boys read but are not the avid readers that I am but my future daughter in law is a voracious reader – more so than me so shopping for her is easy peasy. 🙂

  2. Colleen Gengler Says:

    I didn’t observe my mother or dad reading a lot. Mostly the newspapers. But, mom made sure we had plenty of books from the library. I recall her reading to me at bedtime. One of my favorites was “The Little Brown Fox.” The library was a regular stop when we made the ten mile trip into town. So, I definitely grew up reading books. Favorites included the “Half Magic” series by Edward Eager and books about the Melendy Family by Elizabeth Enright. I purchased copies so my girls could read them as children. I’ve definitely passed on my love for reading to my girls as both enjoy reading. When mom moved off the farm, she began to go to the library but this time for herself. Eventually at her assisted living home, she used the small library there. I’ve often done gifts of books to her at Christmas, her birthday and Mother’s Day.

    • Thanks, Colleen, for sharing these specifics about your love of reading. I’m glad your mom finally has time to read.

      I think for my parents it was a “time thing” more than anything. After doing farm and household chores and caring for all of us kids, minimal time existed for leisurely reading. That being said, ag magazines (like The Farm Journal, The Farmer and Hoards (sp?) Dairyman) always stuffed the magazine rack.

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    I received some wonderful old books from my Grandma Knuth, and most of those have been passed on to my niece Emily. I have shared many of my self-help books with nieces and nephews, or young friends who needed encouragement. It feels good to know that the memories I hold of favorite books and stories, pass on to another generation. I love this post, Audrey. Izzy looks so interested in those books. Great photos!!

    • You are such an encourager, Lori, to pass along those self-help books to others who may benefit. Your extended family definitely holds that love of reading.

      I love these photos, too. Izzy was so engrossed in “reading” that she didn’t even notice Grandma photographing her. Now that’s a sign of a girl who loves books.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Here is why books are the best Christmas presents you can give.

    1) You can do all your shopping in one place.
    2) There are books for all tastes and ages.
    3) Books are easy to wrap. (Best reason of all).
    4) Books are (relatively) inexpensive.
    5) The value of a book has little to do with its size or cost.
    6) Great books never go out of style.

    I have always held that any reading is good reading. While some reading might be better than others, if a kid is only willing to read comic books, then comics it is.

    • I have always held that any reading is good reading…

      That seems the key to getting reluctant readers to read. Take what interests them most and then find books, magazines, comics, whatever on the subject.

      I appreciate your fantastic list, Greg. When your book of collected humorous stories publishes, I’d like an autographed copy. Nudge, nudge.

  5. Oh such CUTENESS 🙂 I enjoy sharing the love of reading, especially with the littles. I am still an avid reader and my mom and grandmothers started the love of books with me early – all of them were educators. Happy Day – this made my day today – Enjoy!

  6. Bernadette Says:

    The library was always my happy place, when I was growing up and still is today. My excitement and enthusiasm was easily passed on to my daughters and granddaughters, who all love books. I just attended a series of programs at my local library called “Grow a Reader.” I had been doing most of the activities that were recommended with my granddaughters but they also gave me some new ideas and why they are important. One is to encourage even little ones to write (or scribble) as soon as they are able to hold chalk or a thick crayon. They start to get the idea that the markings mean something. Also the importance of learning shapes, so that children start to see the differences in letter shapes. Another concept stressed the importance of building a large vocabulary. When reading books to children, don’t change big words to something more familiar. Just explain the new word and have fun with it. The program also stressed having books accessible. You should see my house. Kids books everywhere. We love it.

  7. Sandy Bessingpas Says:

    How fun to see a comment from Colleen Gengler. We have a mutual friend, Jo Musich, and I understand Colleen and her sister have written a book too. Coleens husband and I went to college together

  8. Jackie Says:

    Cute cute Izzy. Love the photo of Izzy in Grandpa’s lap! Books and little one seem to go together, that photo of Izzy in front of the window is adorable, such a sweet girl!

  9. Go Grandma Says:

    Those glorious days of getting huge stacks of books at the library, sitting with my boys and just reading and reading. All of that reading paid off. I don’t think there are many things better you can do with your children – than just read to and with them.

  10. So important to instill that love of reading! 🙂

  11. My mom is an avid reader and so am I. My daughter loves to read also. I loved the Little House books growing up–absolutely loved them and I couldn’t wait to see where they were written at Laura’s adulthood home in Missouri when I visited my daughter. My daughter loved the Chronicles of Narnia (bought her the hardbound books for Christmas one year) and she grew up with Harry Potter (the same age as each book came out). I read to her while she was still in the womb.

  12. –I’m not sure where my love of books originated from.
    Perhaps, my Grandma Pearl.
    ….but they have transformed my life & being!
    I read to my boys all. the. time.
    Gosh, I miss that experience of lying on their beds reading Narnia or Bud not Buddy aloud!


  13. estremdj Says:

    Oh my, this is so sweet! AND, I love the pics you took!
    I hope someday she will enjoy my children’s picture books too. ☺️❤️
    Thanks for sharing!
    Debbie Estrem

  14. Brenda Rosin Says:

    My parents were also readers but like your parents mostly newspapers and farm & home magazines. There is still something relaxing to me about sitting down and reading the newspaper! This summer for my cousin Kari’s daughter Kathryn’s baby shower we were asked to bring a book instead of a card . I thought this was a great idea! I bought a hardboard copy of The Mitten which my younger son Dalton loved as a child. My older son Travis bought a copy of The Three Little Pigs!

    • I love this idea. We did a similar thing for my niece’s baby shower. Because she loves Dr. Seuss, we were all invited to bring Dr. Seuss books. But I like your idea even better of bringing any book. Good to hear from you, Brenda.

  15. I love reading to! Honestly reading is one of my favorite things. I wish to be an author someday!

  16. I have been given the gift of generational literacy.

  17. emmaallure Says:

    This is very important in an age of text and short attention spans. Few people read anymore. It is a long time passion of mine, and I believe a key ingredient for future success.

  18. Susan Ready Says:

    Loved reading all the comments.Your posting touched your readers on how much they love books and the joy they get passing that same love of books on to family members. Books are to be cherished and its always such a gift when I take time, step inside a book and get lost in an adventure.

  19. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    My mom is a big reader and my sister and I both inherited that trait from her. My daughter almost always has a book sitting beside her. She’s currently reading them faster than we can buy them for her.

  20. A girl has no name. Says:

    This is brilliant. I’m now only just thinking about creating a blog and reading your post have given me inspiration. I am an avid book reader, but since having a little girl that has certainly slowed down! She is now three months old and her Dad and I are already starting to read stories to her in the evenings. A life growing up without books seems like a great crime to me and I will make sure I always influence her to read! Books bring enjoyment, tears and certainly for a period of my life they helped me to overcome depression. Long live books.

    • Congratulations on becoming a new mom to a sweet little girl. Your gift of reading to her will endure throughout her life.

      I’d never considered the role of books in dealing with depression. Thanks for sharing that added benefit. May you continue to see the light in words and in life.

  21. Gunny Says:

    Books and Depression: Books can be very comforting if they are the right books. Attitude lifters were: Benedict Arnold Never Slept Here, The Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto and The Jewish, Japanese Sex & Cookbook and How to Raise Wolves. (these are real books).

    Unlike digital books, printed books come with their warts, blemishes and all that they are and can not be changed. This can be an issue for those who read digital books.

    I encourage everyone to read, teach children to read and give the gift of a good read. It is one reason I am here on this blog – to read about what Audrey finds in her travels!

    Excellent points there Almost Iowa!

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