There is a hand-penned inscription on the inside cover of my copy of "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. It reads, "To Paula, Christmas 1967, from Aunt Marti and Uncle Bob."

There is a hand-penned inscription on the inside cover of my copy of "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. It reads, "To Paula, Christmas 1967, from Aunt Marti and Uncle Bob."

I've no idea who they were because I purchased this copy second-hand, but Paula and I were kids at the same time and I may have been enjoying vicarious romps through the fields and along the river at the same time as she.

As much of a nostalgia freak as I am, any object that encourages us to read more and think for ourselves gets my vote. So, I've no sermon against e-readers. However, discovering personal moments, shadows from some private Christmas morning such as that above is one reason I prefer a real book in my hands.

As a child, I spent hour upon happy hour with my face in books, thanks to a mom who read to me every day. My favorite authors and characters showed me places from which I had to be jarred away for mealtimes. Robert Louis Stevenson spread my bed cover over a green pasture with summer trees and colorful blooms when I read "A Child's Garden of Verses" with illustrations by Tasha Tudor. I scuffed through Farmer Bean's neat barnyard, privy to the conversations of intelligent farm animals in the Freddy the Pig series by Walter Brooks. A hand-carved wooden doll named Hitty and I traveled the world in "Hitty: Her First Hundred Years," a Newberry Medal winner by Rachel Field.

All of these books are available and remain in print because of their timeless power to transport us toward adventure and away from the mundane. Lately, I'm drawn to revisit children's classics. Possibly, I'm launching into my long-awaited second childhood, or maybe it's a blatant escape from the ills and pills of an overwrought, high-tech society, but I find some solace within the sod walls of the "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder or watching verbal artistry unfold from a sty in "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White.

I've heard that the best children's books are the ones adults love. As grown-ups, we needn't be ashamed of wanting to relive finely crafted stories from our youth, unless we're afraid of the risk of jump-starting that dormant child's heart — the small, vulnerable place that still pulses with hope and unrestrained joy beneath life's layers.

I think Ratty may have described that promising place best from "Wind in the Willows" when he sensed and heard Pan's pipes briefly and said, "It's gone! So beautiful and strange and new! Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worthwhile but to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it forever."

Each week I make the drive through pastoral countryside, up Highway 140 to the Lake Creek Learning Center where I volunteer one hour as a SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) reader to two beautiful children — a boy and a girl. The word "volunteer" denotes sacrifice, but I enjoy our time together as much as the children do. It's a fact that reading with kids helps promote learning ability and future success, and the shared experience is priceless in our busy world.

The local SMART program still needs volunteers. If this plucks at a positive heartstring in you, go to or call 541-734-5628 for more information and to find out how you can make a difference.

Looking at the book's inscription again, I wonder if Aunt Marti and Uncle Bob were risk-takers who revisited the riverbank home of Mole, Ratty, Badger and the infamous Toad of Toad Hall on occasion.

Drop me a line. I'd love to hear what your favorite children's books were, and are.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at