05/08/2012 01:58 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2012

I'm in the Milk and the Milk's in Me

Maurice Sendak has died at age 83. He was one of my favorite parenting writers.

Wait, you thought his books were for kids?

Chicken Soup With Rice is a brilliant "Playful Parenting" approach to living with a picky eater.

Pierre is one of the best descriptions I've read on how (not) to deal with defiant behavior. (I have read it aloud, front to back, to a roomful of adults taking my parenting workshops).

Where The Wild Things Are shows us how children's destructive impulses can find a home in fantasy, and lets us see an example of how you can send your child to bed without supper, but also make sure he gets fed.

Bears -- how many of us have been in that frantic search for the all-important stuffed animal who's gone missing? That book is a tiny treatise on separation anxiety and loss.

Each book is a nugget of wisdom, showing playful ways to cope with all that's weird and challenging and complex when you live with little ones. You close each one with a new idea of how to proceed. Even poet Rita Dove famously used Sendak as an inspiration in a beautiful poem about mothers and daughters and body talk.

The good children's books are also for the parents. Because reading is like nursing: you hold your child close, you use your body and your mind to offer to your child a multi-sensory experience essential to his growth and development. You use intimacy, touch, rhythm and warmth to expose him of the best that the world has to offer. It is so, so important to your child that you hold him and read to him.

But all too often, just like nursing, we look at reading as though it's *only* beneficial for the child, as though it's not equally profound for mom. But that's wrong. When it works, it's for both of you -- the content of the books, the experience of holding each other and sharing the art of the written word. You're in the milk and the milk's in you. He's in the milk and the milk's in him. There you are, learning the world together.

Read good books with your child.