As sojourners in a foreign land, we’ve joined some of the Turkish baby traditions. One of them was the “first tooth party.” We invited friends over, and I tried to make the sweet treat they serve to guests at such parties-- a soupy medley of cooked wheat berries and chopped nuts with pomegranate pieces and plenty of simple syrup.
Our friends also urged us to engage six-month-old Banner in a little activity for first-tooth babies. The parents spread a blanket out on the floor and place the baby in the center with different objects around the edges. These items are meant to represent future professions-- camera for photographer, cooking spoon for chef, comb for hairdresser, etc. We got overexcited about this and put about 20 different objects, some of which were flashy and enticing for little baby hands — like shiny metal scissors! But when we placed Banner in the center, he immediately (almost as if he'd pre-planned it) lunged for the book. It wasn't even a children's picture book-- just a small, bland, adult-looking novel. We weren't sure if that represented becoming an author or a librarian or an editor, but it was crystal clear that this kid loved books from an early age.
Banner continued to love reading. As long as someone sat and read to him, he would sit contentedly for many minutes or even hours, gazing at the pages and trying to comprehend all the words. Once he learned to read, he had whole worlds at his fingertips with his books.
Early on, I finagled access to the small English library on the American military base in Ankara. Each week we would go there, and we gradually worked our way through the whole children’s book section, taking home 10-20 library books per week. Perhaps not all, but most of the children’s books on those shelves have “Watson” listed on the borrower card in the back, sometimes multiple times. I estimate that we worked our way through about 1,500 of those books, week by week. I always wished there were more children’s libraries readily available in Turkey. We would’ve gladly read Turkish books to Banner, too!
Slowly, through the years, we built up our own children’s book collection. I would get books wherever and whenever I could. I brought back English books from used bookstores in America. I took hand-me-down Turkish children’s books from local friends. We went to secondhand sales and scooped up books there. I bought Turkish books from the Puffin book-mobile at Çekirdek each year. We held onto any books that were gifted to us, even if they weren’t currently the right age range for our kids. Many of these books we’ve used over the years will now go into Banner’s Bookshelf for other children to enjoy.
We hope Banner’s Bookshelf will help your kids develop their own love for books, just like Banner.