Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Kid About Compassion, Existence, and How Books Change Us

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Kid About Compassion, Existence, and How Books Change Us

By Blair Morris

September 23, 2019

Jacqueline Woodson’s Lovely Letter to Children About Kindness, Presence, and How Books Transform Us

” It is we who are passing when we say time passes,” the Nobel-winning French philosopher Henri Bergson insisted simply prior to Einstein defeated him in the historic dispute that changed our understanding of time “If our heart were big enough to like life in all its detail, we would see that every instant is at as soon as a provider and a plunderer,” his compatriot Gaston Bachelard wrote a decade later in contemplating our paradoxical temporal experience Still, our most intimate relationship with time unfolds not in physics or viewpoint but in storytelling– an amazing innovation of idea and sensation that allows us to both consist of time and travel through it, to saturate the moment with absolute presence and to leap from it into other eras, places, and experiences.

That is what National Book Award laureate Jacqueline Woodson, among our age’s most beloved authors of literature for youths, explores in her stunning contribution to A Speed of Being: Letters to a Young Reader( public library)– a labor of love 8 years in the making, making up 121 showed letters to kids about why we checked out and how books transform us from some of the most motivating humans in our world: artists, writers, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

Art by Lara Hawthorne for a letter by Jacqueline Woodson from A Speed of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

Woodson writes:

Dear Young Reader,

In my memoir, Brown Woman Dreaming, I blog about “this perfect minute, called Now.” I am thinking of this as I lie beside my seven-year-old child, checking out to him from a book I in the beginning disliked but have grown to value over the evenings of reading. Two floorings up, my thirteen-year-old daughter is supposed to be doing research however might be examining her Instagram or texting a friend or ideally cuddled below her covers with her own book ( The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie– “Oh my God, Momm– I enjoy this book SO MUCH!”).

It feels like such a brief time ago it was her in the crook of my arm, wide-eyed and listening. I impulsively kiss the top of my child’s mohawked head (he desires us to let him dye it green– perhaps we will– after all, you’re just 7 once) and he looks up at me, eyebrow furrowed.

” Why are you kissing me in the middle of the sentence?!”

” Since this moment won’t always be here,” I say.

” Mommy– just check out … please.”

As the kid of a single working mama, I didn’t have this moment. There were 4 of us and at the end of a long workday, my mom was exhausted. In some cases, my older sibling read out loud to everyone and those are some of my deepest memories. Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates, Your Home On Pooh Corner, Harriet the Spy While I never ever check out any of those books to my own kids– choosing to read from books where their young brown selves were/are represented on the page– my sibling’s stories in my ear put me on a journey towards my own stories. I desired to see myself in books, would like to know that I existed … fully … out worldwide.

The book I read to my kid is about a giant who is despised in his town, enjoys a lady who might or might not love him back. We’ve just learnt the lady is the child of Little Red Riding Hood and now the story has my attention– a twist I didn’t see coming.

” I do not understand why the king is so mean,” my kid says. “That’s not kindness, ideal Mommy?”

I avoid kissing the top of his head again and attempt not to think that this moment of my youngest child beside me, the two people inside one story, will not always be here. This now is what matters, young reader. The minute we’re all living in is what counts– how will this minute, and the stories we’re living inside of change us … forever? The odor of my kid’s hair, his laughter, his whispered “Oh man!” and now, him whispering “That’s not compassion, ideal Mommy?” This is what reading does. This is what matters most. I smile and turn the page.


Jacqueline Woodson

Enhance with other terrific letters from A Speed of Being by Jane Goodall, Rebecca Solnit, Alain de Botton, and a 100- year-old Holocaust survivor

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