So now it matters almost not at all to any of them except as a storybook matters; loved in childhood but outgrown in adolescence, it still matters, still instructs, still is part of what the adult becomes.

Phyllis Tickle, The Graces We Remember: Songs in Ordinary Time (126)

When our children Crista and Joel were little, a prelude to nap-time was their mother chanting in a sing-song voice: “Come to the storybook chair, the story book chair, the story book chair, and we’ll read . . . .” Hearing that, they’d head for the rocking chair and climb on my lap for colorful Richard Scarry pages or the clever tricks of a George and Martha book. I’m carrying on a tradition that began with my mother who read to me from picture books, and also recited poetry from her school days.

My journal tells me (and it does not lie) these are the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson that Mother recited to me in 1999 from her memories of Lime Rock School near Lititz, Pennsylvania in the mid 1920s.

Ruth Metzler  Lime Rock School  1920s

Ruth Metzler            Lime Rock School             1920s

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Illustrations from A Child's Garden of Verses, John Martin's House, Inc., circa 1945

Illustrations from A Child’s Garden of Verses, John Martin’s House, Inc., circa 1945

She also recited the verses of “My Shadow” from the “Golden Book of Poetry” 1947 with the familiar first two stanzas:

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At the beginning of second grade, the summer I turned seven, I had my tonsils removed and among my memories (besides drinking chocolate milk through a straw and trying to swallow smashed bananas) is reading the poem “The Land of Counterpane” under a quilt that probably matched my own upon my sick-bed.

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What are your early memories of reading? Did a friend or family member recite poetry or other words of wisdom to you?

Coming next: The Wonda Chair and the Heirloom