by Lorelei Cretu)
"Kari, time for dinner!" my mom called, but I didn't hear her. Not the first time.
I was on my belly across the end of my bed, lost in "Pippi Longstocking," skating with her across the floor with scrub brushes tied to my feet like hers were.
I might not have heard my mom the second time either.
Not until she was in the hallway — "Kari, dinner!" — did the words reach me in Villa Villekulla (where no grown-ups were allowed), and I slid off the bed, nose still in the book — "Coming!" and walked smack into the frame of my doorway.
(It wouldn't be the last time.)
When I was 7, I read across America — literally, from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco in the backseat of an Oldsmobile convertible as my family moved from one military post to another.
Granted, there wasn't much else to do on a long car trip in those days, save play I Spy or annoy my brother. "Mom, she's touchingme!" "No, I'm not," I would protest from my side of the car. Touch. "Yes, she IS!" And then he would whap me with a rolled-upMad magazine. "Mom, he's hitting me!"
So mom kept us in books.
My mom read to us when we were little, not just at bedtime, but after lunch, or while waiting to see the dentist. She took us to the base library, where we were allowed to check out a dozen books at a time. (A dozen!)
To me, reading was magic. I went to faraway places — Plum Creek, Kirrin Island, Narnia. Ramona Quimby, Meg Murry and Charles Wallace, and Harriet the Spy squeezed into the backseat with me.
(Harriet ate tomato sandwiches, I ate tomato sandwiches.)
I could get so swept up in a story that, even when I wasn't actually reading, I'd daydream about what the characters were doing.
My parents both wound down their days with books. My brother and I weren't allowed to stay up late to watch TV, but a plea to read could keep the light on for at least 15 minutes past bedtime.
I started reading to Sawyer when he was an infant, though my mom wasn't sure about the fact that I was reading to him out of the daily newspaper — in a sing-song voice — about such things as the war in Bosnia.
Sawyer didn't seem to care what I read; he would lie next to me on a blanket as I held the paper open above our faces, his feet and fists waving, delighted. (Hey, I read him the comics and Dear Abby, too.)
Of course, I also read "Goodnight Moon," "Sheep in a Jeep" and "Barnyard Dance" so many times that I can recite them still.
(Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how.)
When he was 3, Sawyer handed me "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" every night for 4½ months. It was long, but inside the book's cover, in a child's careful scrawl, was an advisory: "This book belongs to Karina."
It was good for 15 minutes past bedtime.
But I also read to Sawyer because I had read somewhere that children whose parents read to them read more themselves, have bigger vocabularies, and do better in school.
It turned out to be more than words read aloud. There was a closeness that came with reading, Sawyer sitting on my lap, snuggled up next to me, or on opposite ends of the couch, taking turns, one page each, handing the book back and forth.
When Sawyer was a little older, I tried interesting him in the Little House books because when I was a kid, the Ingalls family crossing the country in a covered wagon and facing hardships like fire and blizzards was the height of adventure.
He thought it was boring.
(It did take Pa an entire chapter to build Ma a rocking chair from young willow trees. Then 8, Sawyer sighed: "He should just go to Ikea.")
Sawyer preferred to go to the Admiral Benbow Inn, Alagaesia and Hogwarts and to be in the company of pirates, ancient Egyptians and Encyclopedia Brown. He had found his own magic.
On road trips, we'd listen to books on CD — the last of the "Harry Potter" series, "The Graveyard Book" — instead of pushing in earbuds and listening to our own thing.
In middle school, and now that he's in high school, I make a point to read the books he's reading for English or social studies — "The Book Thief," "Ender's Game," "Ishmael." I loaned him my copies of "Anthem" and "Fahrenheit 451." And now he's reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," my all-time favorite.
More than magic, reading together gives us a common language, inside references — when the guys get too rowdy in the man cave, I holler, "What is this — 'Lord of the Flies'? — and shared stories. We've been to many of the same faraway places and spent time with the same characters.
But I worry. Will all the distractions — YouTube, video games, tablets and unlimited apps — draw my son away from reading? I love books, and the walls of my house are lined with bookcases, but even I am buying fewer of them, opting for the immediacy of downloads instead.
So are the kids in my carpool. One morning, I asked Sophia, who's 11 and reading "Divergent," which I had just finished, "Where are you?"
"I'm at 72 percent," she said. Not Chapter 15, or the part when Tris' mom visits the Dauntless compound.
I can't decide if that's good or bad. Maybe it's like how we used to listen to records, then cassettes, then CDs, and now we download all our music. Maybe my son will keep reading, just in different formats.
The other night, I was curled up on one end of the couch, the dog between me and Sawyer on the other end. He was reading a hardback copy of Maria Konnikova's "Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes."
"Good book?" I asked. And he marked his place with his finger and launched into an enthusiastic and complicated explanation of the Holmesian method of observation and thinking.
When he finally ran out of breath, he nodded at the Kindle on my knees and asked, "Yours?"
I was reading Lee Child's first novel featuring Jack Reacher, a Sherlock Holmes character of sorts. (But with more violence. And less luggage.) We compared the two, and then we both went back to reading.
I wasn't as worried anymore.
And it was good for an extra 15 minutes past bedtime, for both of us.