My friend E, who is a full-fledged adult, has recently begun to read the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series of books for the first time. I envy her that opportunity: to read those stories for the very first time. Those books meant everything to me as a child. I read them over and over again. As an adult, I've re-read the stories. If I had to identify one set of books that influenced my life the most, it might very well be those Little House stories.
They opened up the world of American history to me. Even today, when I teach about the Homestead Act, I make reference to the experiences of the Ingalls and thousands of others who came out west after the Civil War, looking for opportunity. My first winter in Nebraska, I was able to fully appreciate the harsh beauty of the prairie landscape that Laura had written about in her stories. And I never plant my spring garden that I don't recall the stories of the Ingalls enjoying the produce of their garden, with its spring lettuce and fresh tomatoes.
The books inspired me to read as a little girl struggling to master the task; I wanted to know what would happen to Laura and her family. As an adult, I've always appreciated the lessons I first learned from those beautifully written stories. I think that JT and I will pick up The Little House in the Big Woods when we finish our current book. I bet he'll love them as much as I do.