Meredith Baxter Reflects on Books and Mother’s Day

Books I Read My Children
By Meredith Baxter

In trying to decide what books I could write about that reflected Mother’s Day, only something by Louisa May Alcott sprang to mind and, not having had stimulating encounters with her books in my childhood, I decided to dig deeper and closer to home.

My mother read only three books to my brothers and me: A Child’s History of the World, A Child’s Geography of the World, and Winnie the Pooh – all three droll, delicious, and indelible. I’ve pursued those characteristics in my subsequent reading and, probably even more so, in my writing.

This set me to wondering what books I might have read to my children when they were young that came even close to those classifications, and I had to admit my conspicuously transparent hope to have proved indelible to them in some way.

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What books had I read that stood the test of time with my children?

best-nest-coverMy two eldest, Ted and Eva, responded readily. They’re both in their forties but their choices are still in popular in bookstores today. Ted chose a very junior book, The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman, which he read to his son, Eli, years ago. Ted said he was taken by the combination of the sadness of the bird family losing their beloved home, a song they sang to keep their spirits up (that we all sang, too, all during the day), and the happy ending in a new nest. Short on drama; long on cheer.

winnie-the-pooh-coverEva remembered Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, a classic for the ages. She remembered the simple, lovely pictures but was most taken by the singular characters brought to life by my reading aloud. She felt by my giving voice to Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore, they and the Thousand Acre Wood came colorfully to life, vivid in her mind. That’s precisely what I experienced when my mother read it to me.

hekcedy-peg-coverMollie, my youngest girl, picked one we’d practically memorized, Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood. In this, we both responded to the strength of a fine complex story supported by the stark and stunning illustrations by Don Wood. Heckedy Peg is a witch who has stolen a mother’s seven children and hides them by turning them into food. The mother, when she tracks them down, can save them only if she can identify which child is which food. It is a testament to the mother’s love and how close she is to each child that she’s able to save them. We played games of trying to guess which food we’d want to be. Mollie was egg custard.

Sitting with a book and a child in my lap was always my sweetest bonding time as a mother. We cannot underestimate the power of our voices in our children’s ears, the shared adventure of breathing life into witches, birds, or bears, the deeply ingrained connection that will be reborn in the next generation.

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Untied-coverMeredith Baxter is a beloved and iconic television actress, most well-known for her enormously popular role as hippie mom, Elyse Keaton, on Family Ties. Her warmth, humor, and brilliant smile made her one of the most popular women on television, with millions of viewers following her on the small screen each week. Yet her success masked a tumultuous personal story and a harrowing private life. For the first time, Baxter is ready to share her incredible highs, (working with Robert Redford, Doris Day, Lana Turner, and the cast of Family Ties), and lows (a thorny relationship with her mother, a difficult marriage to David Birney, a bout with breast cancer), finally revealing the woman behind the image. Told with insight, wit, and disarming frankness, Untied is the eye-opening and inspiring life of an actress, a woman, and a mother who has come into her own. Available now wherever books are sold.

RIFers! What book(s) do you read your children? What was your favorite book as a child? Help us celebrate books and Mother’s Day and leave a comment!

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • Vickie Haller

    My favorite childhood books are “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aiken (I beleive that’s right)& Dodie Smith’s “The 101 Dalmatians”

  • Carla

    I LOVED the Best Nest when I was young. It made me cry but I always knew the bird would find a new home.

    My husband read Winnie the Pooh to our 14 year old and now reads it to our 5 year old. We give the Winnie the Pooh treasury to each new niece or nephew that joins the families.

    Reading to your children is an amazing bonding experience. I love reading and I know it’s because my mom read to me and I also had several teachers read to the children in my classes.

  • Carol Ann

    My favorite childhood books were the “Little House” seriesbby Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still want to visit all the places she lived!

  • Ted

    Hey, Mom, I said LONG on drama, long on happy.

    The papa bird’s extreme sorrow at losing his wife moved me even as a wee kid, and then to find her singing HIS song, in the house she’d previously hated — oh, the joy!

    Though it does make me wonder how this shaped my concept of hubby/wife roles.. he the long-suffering, she the never-satisfied harpy… but his love won out in the end!

    That, and the great song we used to sing: “OOOOOOOOOOH, I love my house, I love my nest, in all the world this nest is beeeee-esssssssttt!!”

  • Heather

    There were a few books I loved to read to my kids. They included, but not limited to; Oh The Places You’ll Go, Mother Goose & the Animorphs series. Sitting & reading to my boys was a great mommy time with them, leaving me with lots of fond memories.

  • Marilyn

    My favorite book was Stuart Little. Of course I also loved Curious George and Madeline. I can’t wait to read these to my great niece who is due to arrive the beginning of July!

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