Inspiration
National Book Store's Xandra Ramos-Padilla Writes to Her Children About the Wonders of Reading
How do you impart a love of books to children?
IMAGE Lilen Uy
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The Power of Reading Books

Xandra Ramos-Padilla is the Managing Director of National Book Store and the President of Anvil Publishing. Her grandmother, Socorro Ramos, founder of National Book Store, recruited her straight out of college to help with the book purchasing at the chain. Xandra has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.


Dear S and F,

My favorite part of the day is that special time before bedtime when we are all cuddled up together in bed reading. I used to be the one to read out loud to you, but now you read along with me, or, even better, we read to each other. And no matter how busy a day it was, no matter how tired I am from work, I always feel alive again when I’m bonding over books with you.

When you were both babies, I used to read you Goodnight Moon and Love You Forever. I loved those books, and it seemed like you did too. S, you loved Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar books and I even tried to have them translated to Filipino so you could learn the language. F, for years, you only wanted to listen to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site repeatedly until our copy was dog-eared. I did my best to imitate the sounds made by the machines.

Did you know it was Lola Nanay who first pushed me to start reading? Lola Nanay is the founder of National Book Store, so she gave us lots of books.

I tried my best to encourage you both to start reading. For you S, I printed large flash cards and taped them on objects all around our apartment. I also used the Oxford Reading Tree, Hooked on Phonics, and the Clifford the Big Red Dog books. I would point at the words as I read to you, so you could read along. All of a sudden, it just all seemed to click for you. The letters suddenly connected to each other and you were reading on your own.

F, when it was your turn, you refused to read by yourself. But then one day, as we were driving down EDSA, you started reading all the signs out loud. And then you started reading Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books, laughing as we turned the pages. This summer I have been pushing you, S, to transition to chapter books. I gave you a copy of Matilda and you told me, “You know, Mommy, we are not alike. I don’t like reading books.” But then we watched Matilda the Musical, and you said, “It’s great how they made the book come to life!” You told me during intermission what would happen next because you had apparently read the book. That made me secretly very happy.

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You also wanted to read up on the history of Rome and London before we visited those places. I enjoyed reading those books with you and learning more about those places, too. I know that sometimes I may push you more than you like, but I hope that someday you will love books as much as I do.

Did you know it was Lola Nanay who first pushed me to start reading? Lola Nanay is the founder of National Book Store, so she gave us lots of books. The very first series she gave me was the Bobbsey Twins. It was about two sets of twins who went on all sorts of adventures. She also gave me the Nancy Drew series, which was about a smart, strong girl who solved all sorts of mysteries. Those stories inspired me to be brave, adventurous, and inquisitive.
Sometimes Mommy interviews authors about their work, and asks them what inspires them to write what they write. Those conversations lead to a deeper appreciation of their words. How I wish I could preserve all their collective wisdom for you. In the meantime, I always ask them to sign copies of their books for you. They wait on our bookshelves at home for the time when you are ready for them. I believe books come into our lives at just the right time, when we need them most.

You will move from Geronimo Stilton, to the Magic Tree House, to The 39 Clues. And even though you’ve already gotten to know Harry Potter through his movies, someday you will experience the magical world that J.K. Rowling created in her books via your own imagination. Someday you will realize it is better to read the book before watching the movie. Or someday we can have our own debate about that.

Books are great life companions as they show you worlds and possibilities.

I’m sorry that I can’t be there tonight to tuck you in. I’m at work, attending a big book fair in Chicago. I’m excited to find more books for you to read someday as I meet many publishers and authors from around the world. One author I listened to at last year’s book fair was Oliver Jeffers. It was amazing to watch how he wrote a story and illustrated it at the same time. I brought home some of his books for you, which we have enjoyed together. I plan to bring many more books for you, even if it means no more space in my luggage for other kinds of shopping.

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Books help me express my love for you that I cannot always show you. When I’m at work visiting various bookstores, I’m always on the lookout for books that might interest you. I know you love princesses, S. And F, how you love dinosaurs, dragons, and monsters.

On nights when I can’t be with you, I’m glad you have your books with you. They are great life companions as they show you worlds and possibilities. I love how you both write your own poems and stories now, and I am amazed at the power of your imagination. I hope books continue to open your minds and explore the depths of your hearts and souls. Our library of books and the time we read together are my gifts to you. One day when you are all grown up, you will open those same books and share them with your own children. And within those pages, you will think of me, and know that I love you forever.

Mommy

This letter appeared in Letters To My Children, published by Summit Books. Available at leading bookstores nationwide. 

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