Friends:

You all know how much I love to read.  If I could spend morning, noon and night reading, I would be in heaven.  And now that the Dodgers aren’t on my television anymore, I have even more time to read.  Yet this weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books I was faced with the ultimate moral dilemma.

I think that it is safe to say that my daughters are very well taken care of.  Perhaps that is just my politically correct way of saying that they are spoiled but I just can’t bring myself to actually say that about them.  However, they certainly do not want for anything.  Toys, dolls, clothes, food, activities, Disneyland, you name it, they get it all.  Most of the time they utter some words of thanks, but most of the time they somehow forget to do so and it really ticks off their mother and I.

To make matters worse, with the attention span of a hummingbird, they are through with the new item and on to something else.

As you can no doubt expect, being such avid readers as their mother and I are, we spend a lot of time at the bookstore (while they are still around, that is).  And of course, when we are there, the chorus of “I want that!” and “How about this one?” resonates throughout the store.  This was equally true around the USC campus on Saturday as we attended the LA Times Festival of Books.

What is a parent to do when faced with this moral dilemma?  Their mother and I have tried to raise appreciative and respectful children and there definitely is still work to be done.  Sure, we know they want the Hello Kitty this or that and that they would love to go to Disneyland yet again, but it is easy for us to say no to those things.

But books.  Ahh books.  I found a statistic online that 44% of 4th graders cannot read fluently.  I have a 3rd grader who is reading at a 7th grade level.  Am I supposed to say no to her when she says she wants more books?

When I was a kid, my parents made me a promise: as long as I continued to read books, they would buy them for me.  They were so supportive of my appetite for books that they actually bankrolled my addiction!  And when Amy and I would argue about going to the bookstore and buying more books for the girls, I would remind her of the promise my parents made to me.

Ugh, but the struggle persists.  As we walked around the USC campus, the whines and complaints were endless.  I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m tired, I’m bored.  And when their mother or I wanted to stop at a particular booth or speak with an author we liked, they never failed to remind us that they were there and that they didn’t want to be.

Yet when we ventured to the kids’ book section, you can imagine how the tune changed.  No longer were they bored or thirsty or hungry.  Instead, they were wanting this, that and everything else.  And we struggled to say no.  We struggled.  We didn’t want to be the pushovers we knew we were.  We didn’t want to be the enablers who reinforced the poor behavior with rewards and gifts.

But books.  Ahh books.  We just couldn’t say no to books.  For all of their antics and exploits, for all of the constant affirmations that we wouldn’t do it again, we wouldn’t reward poor behavior… well, we caved.  To have children who have developed a love of books like their parents is such a reward that we didn’t want to discourage it.  The other day, Brooklyn told me that the perfect life would be sitting in her room and reading all day.  It just about brought a tear to my eye.

We continue to struggle and work hard at making our girls respectful and appreciative individuals.  We try to avoid spoiling them and rewarding poor behavior.  But when it comes to books, I think their mother and I are ok caving just a little.  I see so much imagination and creativity in Brooklyn and I attribute it all to her love of books.

And since we can’t watch the Dodgers on our television anymore, well, at least we still have our books.

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