In Praise of Coffee Table Books

A rather loud thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon got me thinking about things to which I hadn’t given two seconds of thought in years. Coffee lightningtable books! No one bothers with coffee tables anymore. They are completely passé, thank goodness! The number of times I’ve crammed my toes on the legs of those things… (My mom used to swear if I didn’t run barefoot all the time, I wouldn’t have a problem.)

When I married, I soon discovered the coffee table was a clutter catcher. It was also a great place for folding laundry. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to spend on coffee table books, and there was no point in Parisshowing off my intellectual genius, as I barely had time for such pursuits anyway. Besides most of my friends were in the same boat as I was. Furthermore, they wouldn’t have cared if I was fluent in French, found the similarities in Locke and Hume interesting, or actually knew anything about St. Francis of Assisi or the Nordic gods, or found beauty in architectural designs. We were too busy folding baby clothes.

The library became my go-to place. About once a week, I’d pack up the children and take them to the library. My oldest was just starting to seriously read and wanted more books than I could afford to buy. The library filled the gap between need and budget! Soon my oldest finished reading all the little children’s books and wanted to read the next level.

My youngest was bored! She had tipped the scale where she didn’t want baby books and still wasn’t reading well enough to read chapter books on her own. Yet she loved pictures and seemed to want to know about everything in life.

Well, it happened by accident. I had her stay with me while I went to look for a few books that I could read. Something caught her eye and she pulled out a shelved book, plopped herself in that aisle, and began to look at the pages. She discovered coffee table books! She wanted them all!

Well, the one librarian was almost appalled at the thought of a not-qunivalveuite two year old even handling such expensive books. The other librarians were taken aback by her young inquisitiveness but found it charming. I’ll admit, her interest didn’t surprise me, but the idea of using such books as a way to open her world to more, did. I only allowed her to take home two, or maybe two was the limit imposed by the library.

Within the pages of those large books were beautiful photographs of the most amazing things. By the time she was three, she knew the difference between univalves and bivalves. I’d pass the seafood area in the grocery store and she wanted to help me pick out bivalves and univalves for her daddy’s dinner! I could tell her to pick out one type of univalve and two different bivalves. She sit in the cart and point, then struggle with her decisions. “May I pick out a crustacean, too?”

bivalveYes. I got odd stares. I’d just smile and nod. I know I have a strange child, and I promise, she’s not an alien.

From deep-sea ocean beauties, to Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China, to towering redwoods, and insects of all kinds, lightning storms and cloud formations, and photos taken from outer space, back to the finest statues and paintings in the world, they can all be found within the pages of coffee table books. The photography is awesome and can make even the ugliest creepy crawly thing look fascinating. It’s a way to open a child’s world beyond an immediate setting.

In tiny bites, those books feed my young daughter’s insatiable appetite for knowledge. The incredible photography made each book a journey. Each became another block of the foundation upon which her education was built. They expanded her vocabulary by giving her scientific words that we just don’t use in normal conversation. And they did it all while she was still young.

Our electronic books and fancy little e-readers just don’t quite compare to snuggling with a child while you read through a really big book! Oh, the places you’ll go within those big picture books. I think Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr Seuss, would have heartily approved, for my daughter had learned to read from his books and their sing-song rhymes.

We have so many tools today to help our children, from television shows to computerized games. We can give our children so much more than what existed when we were children. Never has there been so much information available with a few keystrokes or the click of a few buttons. But there’s a timeless favorite of mine, those coffee table books.

And there’s nothing to compare with the scent of a child all fresh from an evening bath as they cuddle up for an evening read. And there’s nothing similar to a book where both child and parent, alike, can explore something in such detail. Scottish castles, sundials, Renoir paintings, beautiful antebellum homes of the old South, the masterpieces of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the most amazing bridges of the world, there’s a book out there filled with such pictures!

The coffee tables is gone and my toes are happy! I still have nmother and baby readingo desire to impress anyone with my interest in art or anything else that catches my fancy. In fact, buying a book for the purpose of decorating a table is beyond me. My house seems to always be bulging in books and now my Kindle probably contains more books than what remains on wooden shelves in my house. But there still room for paper books in our lives – the ones that enrich us and leave us breathless.

Don’t just read to your children, explore and learn with them! It’s never too soon to start reading to them.

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in E.'s Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to In Praise of Coffee Table Books

  1. What a lovely blog! As a former librarian, a lifetime reader, parent and now grandparent, I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of books in all of our lives. Children’s books and so-called coffee table books share words and pictures we cab all enjoy.

    Liked by 5 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      I would go through those books with our girls and then my husband would do it. You’d never know it was the same book! He would see things that I didn’t. And with him, they would see it differently. Who knew they would make such a wonderful educational tool?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh so true! My kids are voracious readers due to the fact we’ve always had books around and made library trips a grand excursion. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. susanrhughes says:

    I don’t know what I’d do without a coffee table! Yes, it’s great for folding laundry and many other tasks while you watch TV. Ours is old and ugly, but you can’t see it most of the time anyway. My parents always had coffee table books when I was a kid. Some of them were cartoons.

    Liked by 4 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      Laughing is good, too! Whatever will grab a child’s interest and get them reading is a positive step. Reading requires practice. But once child can read, they have a whole world available to them!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ELF says:

    There is nothing like the feel and smell of a brand new print book, and I have learned so much from those beautiful coffee table books (although shelving them becomes a problem after a while, lol). Wonderful post, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. melissakeir says:

    I still get my in-laws- Coffee Table Books. We all have coffee tables in my family. The one in the living room became the place for the kids’ legos. They had whole villages set up! Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      Coffee tables are the perfect height for children and their many “projects”. Oh, do I remember the days of Lego. My nephew found all his old Lego sets for his son, except he couldn’t remember how to build those fighter jets! 🙂 Hours and hours of fun for the children (and the adults), but sometimes walking in the den was almost impossible, thanks to all the Lego runways and space stations. No wonder my one nephew grew up to be an engineer!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Judy Baker says:

    I too have a coffee table and right now there’s a picture book of the world beyond ours and my grandson loves it. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

    Liked by 4 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      There are so many wonderful, colorful, picture books that everyone can enjoy! And they are a great way to open dialog about so many things. Children don’t just want our attention, they need it to grow!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for bringing back fond memories and scouring the library for books to read.. And my great-niece now follows the tradition. Chapter books, coffee table books, and those special ones I wrote for her birthday or holiday presents. I just hope that school doesn’t ruin her joy of reading.
    Print books aren’t dead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      I think we’ll see more changes in the next few years as the cost of printing goes higher. Our little ones are already starting to read using electronic devices as parents pass older models to their children, and schools issue computers and pads to the children the way they used to issue schoolbooks. Even school libraries allow the children to borrow ebooks- no more shelving books!

      But for now those BIG picture books can still capture a child’s attention and make them awestruck!

      I think that is wonderful that you wrote books just for her! Did you use one of the photo services that makes books? Children love those books! (And so do grandparents who live far away!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haven’t tried the photo service books for the children. Have made several for their great-grandmother though. For the little ones I wrote the the short story or the text for the picture book and illustrated them using my own photos. Printed off my home printer on heavy card stock and bound them with a slipstitch or onto fabric and quilted to make thicker.

        Liked by 1 person

        • E. Ayers says:

          Oh, that sounds adorable!

          That triggered an idea. Most craft stores carry transfer paper. You send the picture to the printer and print onto the transfer paper. Then iron the transfer onto fabric. (It’s washable!) Sew the fabric into a book form. That would allow someone to make a very early book for a baby!

          Like

  8. Joan Reeves says:

    *LOL* I still have a coffee table–and so does everyone I know! Even funnier I guess is that I keep stacks of coffee table books on both. Guests actually do thumb through them when we give parties or have weekend guests. They’re perfect for out of town guests because many of the books I’ve got are about Texas subjects–everything from Ghost Towns of Texas to the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. (That was a gift to my husband from one of HIS friends years ago. *G*)

    What’s not to like about coffee table books. Great photographs and bite-sized chunks of information.

    Liked by 2 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      Naturally everyone who reads the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is doing it for the chunks of information! But I’ll make bets that the Ghost Towns of Texas is read more.

      I personally love the books with the old photographs of the various cities that I know. There’s an old map/drawing of the city where I live. Someone went up in a balloon and drew the city in 1904, or there about, and I can find my house. Almost nothing about the house has changed. That map is now reproduced in a coffee table book of our city. The author compiled a bunch of old drawings and photos to create a pictorial history of our area.

      But I’m so easily attracted to all sorts of things especially when there’s a photo! If you had a coffee table book on the reproductive habits of oysters I’d probably pick it up and look at it. (Sorry folks that’s an especially boring subject. How they make pearls is much more fascinating.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Carol says:

    Coffee table books are wonderful. I have several. My favorite, right now, is on lighthouses. Fascinating. As for the coffee table itself, we got rid of ours when our first grandchild came along. The last straw was when she hit her head on the corner one day. Out went the table. Love your stories on your children! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • E. Ayers says:

      I’m seeing lots of things take the place of coffee tables. Like really big stools or trunks with rounded corners, or lidded baskets, things children won’t seriously hurt themselves on if they fall. Plus many of those things provide extra storage or great hiding places for that favorite adult blankie that really doesn’t match the decor!

      My kids would kill me if they knew I blogged about them! LOL But being a stay-at-home mom had its advantages. We did without a lot of things, but made up for it in many other ways. 🙂

      Like

  10. leighmorgan1 says:

    Love coffee table books. They open our hearts and minds and set imagination free. I don’t have many these days—3, I think, all on Scotland. Still, every time we visit Door County, WI, there’s a new coffee table book at the B&B or one of the restaurants that is in dire need of pursuing. My whole family loves them. They’re like chocolate, once you have eyes on it, you just can’t help but dive right in. 🙂 And a trip to the library……still pure magic. Thanks for the Blog, E!

    Like

  11. Reblogged this on Lizzi Tremayne, Writer and commented:
    Great blog on bringing the world into your home…with coffee table books. 🙂
    Thanks E.!
    Lizzi

    Like

  12. Great blog on bringing the world into your home…with coffee table books. 🙂
    Thanks E.!
    Lizzi
    Have reposted on my blog!
    http://lizzitremayne.com

    Like

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s