My name is Melissa LaSalle–a.k.a. The Book Mommy. I live outside Washington D.C. with my husband, our son in elementary school, and our daughter in preschool. My love affair with books began well before I had kids, when, during a “gap year” between high school and college, I worked at a children’s bookstore in New York City. My co-workers and I spent our weekends combing used bookstores along the East Coast, rediscovering gems from our own childhoods. After earning a BA in English Literature from Princeton University (where I took every children’s literature class offered), I spent several years in the advertising business (working on accounts like Luvs Diapers and Kellogg’s cereals) before the draw of children’s books once again proved too strong. I partnered with a friend who had recently opened a wonderful independent children’s shop in Chicago called The Red Balloon; for the next 10 years, I became known as The Book Lady, pouring my heart and soul into expanding the store’s book offerings and matching the right books with the right families. Along the way, I gave birth to my son and my belief in the power of children’s books grew even stronger. And then one day, my husband was offered a job opportunity too good to pass up, and we made a difficult but ultimately fulfilling decision to move East. Pregnant with my second, I thought I’d try my hand at becoming a Full-Time Mom.
Years later, I still love being home with my kids, but I’ll never shake my obsession with children’s books: reading constantly to JP and Emily, researching new titles (translate: spending WAY too much money on books), making customized book lists for friends, speaking at parenting groups in the DC area, and curating our local Montessori school’s library. All my adult life, people have asked me, “If you love kids’ books so much, why not write them? Why not publish them?” My answer is simple: there are no shortage of fantastic books being published every year: books that are clever, that are beautiful, that inspire, that shape the way we see the world–in short, books that OUR CHILDREN SHOULD BE READING. And yet, so many of these gems get lost in the stacks of mediocre titles that are simultaneously being published. As Moms, we want the best for our kids, we want them to grow up loving books, to develop their imaginations, to have the gumption to seek out answers to the never-ending stream of questions they have about themselves and the world. And yet, who has the time to sift through the sludge and pull out these gems? I DO. And the knowledge. And the passion. And so, I give you my two cents on What to Read to Your Kids.