Today I had a FANTASTIC morning!  The only thing better than being lost in a beautiful picture book is to share that beautiful  picture book with my 11-year-old daughter, Naomi!

On Tuesday mornings, I go into my daughters class to volunteer.  I get to pick kids out to read to me (and later do math).  I have been doing this for well over a month now, and today was the first time I got to work with my own daughter.  I was so excited!  I prepared the table for reading with the kiddos.  I set out all the books for them to read.  I called out my first student and she read a great rhyming book.  Then, to my extreme pleasure, I got to call out my daughter.  I noticed that in my books was Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe.  John Steptoe is one of my most favorite children’s books authors and I actually own several of his books.  As a matter of fact, I own this book as well, but it has been probably close to a decade since I have read it!  So instead of letting my daughter choose which book she wanted to read, I asked her to read this book to me.  I told her it was one of my all time favorites and I would love to share it with her.  Happily she opened the book and began to read!

The book is an African Folktale that has won a Caldecott Award (which means it won for its pictures, and they are beautiful!)  It is about 2 sisters…one who is bossy and mean and the other who is very sweet.  It is your typical “Cinderella” storyline..well minus the evil step mother!  *laugh*  But it definitely follows the Cinderella archetype as outlined by Carl Jung.  Did you know there are 900 Cinderella stories out there?

Anyway, as Naomi was reading, she stops and says, “Mom, I like Nyasha’s personality better than Manyaras.”  She got excited about seeing a snake in the garden and later asked about the snake again.  This is truly the sign of a great picture book…one that gets the children thinking and asking questions..one that engages them!  John Steptoe is amazing at doing just that!  This book is filled with beautiful pictures, beautiful words, and more importantly a beautiful message…and one that I am so glad I got to share with my daughter!

These last couple of days it has struck me just how much reading is a gift in my life.  The act of learning to read and the character building it gave me while I was bullied for not being able to read….the gift of self-confidence my 5th grade teacher gave me when it came to reading…the safe escape it gave me from abuse in my home…the lessons learned while reading such amazing books…and the gift to be able to share special stories with my children and other children I get to volunteer with!  And in all of my years of being a parent, I am never prouder than when I hear my children tell me they have finished reading a book!

Today, while listening to Naomi read this story, my heart was filled with such gratitude and pleasure….for so many reasons.

If you have not read this book to your children (or even for yourself), I highly recommend picking it up!  For that matter you can check it out on this link:  http://vimeo.com/6276456  It is an episode of Reading Rainbow (I loved that show!)  This book is filled with great lessons of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and African culture!  It truly is a remarkable book!

Have fun!!!!!

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