Dear Jack (Jackster, Boo, Bud),
When you were four years old I was traveling out to California on business and I asked if you’d miss me. You said, “Not really,” and it just about burst my heart into a million pieces. Then you added, “Love means you can never be apart.” What a powerful gift that sentence was to me, and now I want to try and pay you back in this letter.
I have something grand to tell you — not dreaded advice, no boring father-son lectures, just something cool as ice that I want to share. Let’s call it a gift from your old dad, maybe the best one I’ll ever give you.
So hold on to your hat, here goes nothing.
Jack, I want you to become a reader for life, not because you have to or because it might make you more successful or get you into Harvard or Stanford, but because you have come to love books I’m talking about real passion here — like the way you currently go crazy over The Simpsons and The Incredibles.
It’s true — books can make you crazy — in a good way.
Now, I have a confession to make. Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly a gangbuster reader when I was your ripe old age of nine. I didn’t have a prodigious vocabulary like you do. And, of course, I didn’t know how to roam the Internet. Hey, I was just starting to ride my bike in the streets of Newburgh, New York.
Anyway, I think the main reason I didn’t read too much as a kid is because my mom and dad, and the nuns who taught at my school, didn’t get books in my hands that I couldn’t put down. This was pretty much true of all my friends. We read because we had to, not because we wanted to.
Jack, there are so many wise, funny, cool, exciting, magical, chilling, enlightening stories out there to read. There’s Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket of course. Everybody who isn’t a complete Muggle knows about them. But here are some other absolutely terrific, glue-you-to-the-page books.
Holes by Louis Sachar is a total crack-up, and also a wise story about some kids who reform a reform school.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie will open your eyes to what it’s like to grow up as a Native American in this fascinating country of ours.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is one of the most amazing stories about friendship ever written.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is a wickedly cool story about a boy and the giant insects he meets in a peach.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini is a hugely entertaining adventure about a kid like you, whose destiny is to be a Dragon Rider. And listen to this — Chris Paolini was still a teenager when he wrote Eragon, so get cracking.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was the best book I read growing up, and it’s still a favorite of mine.
A great French writer named Gustave Flaubert once said, “It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the wind, the words my people uttered. ”Jack, that’s how I feel when I write, and it’s how you’ll feel when you read a great book. It’s one of the best things in life!
Now here’s the catch: I believe that getting you reading is my responsibility, my job. In fact, it’s the responsibility of all parents and grandparents, and teachers. That’s why I’m doing my homework now and searching for terrific books I know you’ll love.
Jack, with all due respect, you probably won’t do it yourself. Neither will most other kids.
And so, every Christmas, you will get at least one book from me –at least one. What good parents wouldn’t get their kids a book for the holidays?
Every summer, I’ll find at least a couple books that you’ll devour like Chunky Monkey ice cream, and never forget, and maybe tell your kids about some day in a letter.
That’s my gift to you, and I can’t think of a better one. If I do my job right, reading will bring you happiness and satisfaction, every day, for the rest of your life.
I love you, Jack.
Always have, always will.