The XX Factor

What Will You Read Out Loud Tonight?

It’s National Read Across America Day, and also (not at all coincidentally) the birthday of Dr. Seuss, who did so much to make reading aloud more pleasurable for grow-ups and laugh-out-loud fun for kids that he can be forgiven for the many times I’ve been forced to read some of his more interminable offerings. ( The Lorax and Oh, the Places You’ll Go have both slid down to join Pinkalicious in the book graveyard strategically located between the couch we read on and the wall behind it.) If you have little kids, there’s little doubt they’re already celebrating with some form of in class read-aloud ( Fox in Socks if they’re lucky), but it’s a great night to pull out all the stops on bedtime reading too-or reinstitute it if your kids are “too old” to be read to. Maybe they could ransack the house for their very favorite book or two and even spend a little time talking about why they love it, and what memories it sparks.

Our bookshelves here include books I loved enough when I was young to refuse to throw them away: Half Magic , Roller Skates , and what must surely be the world’s most beat-up copy of Harriet the Spy . The picture books ( Girls Can Be Anything , There Must Be Magic: First Poems for Children ) still send a jolt of recognition through my brain (I have a visceral, anxious reaction to the illustration of George and the puzzle piece he swallows in Curious George Goes to the Hospital ). Then there are the books the kids seize on: Little Pea , Potty Animals , Pirates Don’t Change Diapers , and  Officer Buckle and Gloria ; and my all-time favorite go-to new baby book, Amy Schwarz’s A Teeny Tiny Baby (“I’m a teeny tiny baby. And I know how to get anything I want”). We’ve also got the only known copy of Julie and the Magic Pen , written and illustrated by yours truly at, I believe, the age of 11. It is trite, derivative, and repetitive and should make everyone happy that I chose to keep my day job and eventually graduate from the fifth grade.  I made it out of very, very sturdy cardboard and illustrated it in in polyester collage, and it will apparently outlive me.

We’ll go on to the next chapter of Bedknob and Broomstick * tonight, and then relax the one-picture-book rule to let everyone choose in honor of the day. I might even haul Pinkalicious out from behind the couch. Tomorrow, I think we’re due to start our next chapter book (suggestions welcome), and we’ll keep going until the last child rebels-because National Read Across America Day is that rare holiday that’s worth celebrating all year round.

*Correction, March 2, 2011: This blog post originally mistitled the book Bedknob and Broomstick as Bedknob and Broomsticks.

Photograph by Sean Gallup for Getty Images.