It’s been a long time since I was a child, but I remember well the first time I got lost in a story. My elementary school teachers read books aloud to us, as most good teachers do. This enables children to become familiar with literature that is above their current reading level. Though some of my friends doodled and let their minds wander during this time, I would listen and image myself living the worlds of the characters.
I remember clearly the excitement I felt when my second grade teacher, Mrs. Stephens, read aloud The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I tried to imagine what my brothers and I would do if we were suddenly left to fend for ourselves. Being the eldest, I would have had to be the caretaker. Would I have been as resourceful as Henry and Jesse Alden? Would I be able to keep my little brothers safe, clean, and fed?
I’ve never been much of a worrier, so I didn’t lose sleep over these questions (my mother, a chronic worrier, used to fret over my lackadaisical outlook on life). But I did coerce my siblings and neighbors to “play house” so that I could pretend to be grown up and independent, like the Boxcar Children. We’d make up situations and act them out, happy and secure in the knowledge that at the end of the game, we would relinquish our roles as caretakers and return the big-world responsibilities to our parents. And part of being a secure child meant that in my spare time I was free to read about the further adventures of the self-reliant Henry, Jesse, Violet, and Benny.
Many years later, I rejoiced when my daughters embraced reading. Once they mastered the early readers and needed more challenging literature, I bought a new copy of The Boxcar Children and introduced them to the Alden family. By this time, Scholastic books had added several new books to the series, and we bought most of them. I read the original book to my students, and hopefully they too got caught up in this timeless story. The pictures on the covers have been updated, but the resourcefulness of the children remain, making them great role models for today’s young generation.
Have you ever read a book that made you wish you could be a part of the story?