Like most parents who read to their kids, I can (still) recite from memory most of the popular Dr. Seuss books. Go Dog Go was my daughter's favorite; Green Eggs & Ham was my son's (mine is Put Me in the Zoo, which I still think is the best of Seuss.)
When I was little the only things I can remember the adults in my house reading were the Bible, the Sunday newspaper and Life magazine (I was not allowed to touch any of them, but occasionally I'd filch Life to look at the pictures.) I was also not a Dr. Seuss kid; my mother and grandmother were not bedtime story readers. We were encouraged to read, but it was more along the lines of "read so you'll do well in school" versus "read because it will enrich your life."
The first book I owned was one I bought myself for the then-exorbitant sum of ninety-five cents from a Scholastic book flier my teacher handed out. I paid for it by borrowing the money from my grandmother and then paying her back a nickel at a time by doing extra chores after school. I washed a small mountain of dishes and folded a couple dozen baskets of clothes for that book, which I still own, btw. I'm also not too old or proud to admit that every couple of years I take that book out and read it -- and still love every word.
I bought a few more chores-for books, and hoarded what I acquired like the treasures they were to me. By the time I was in middle school I owned maybe twenty, the majority from church rummage sales and birthday gifts from a book-loving aunt, all stashed away in my bottom bureau drawer under my pjs. I dreamed of the day I could have a room in my house filled with nothing but books where I could go and shut the door and read (that took another thirty years to acquire.)
I can't offer you any hard statistics on how the books I read and loved in childhood helped me as an adult. I make my living writing books, but of course that might just be a coincidence. Reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln and how he educated himself also probably had nothing to do with me teaching myself to write stories. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and A.M. Lightner's Day of the Drones likely had no influence on me during desegregation, when I ignored all the racist adults shrieking at each other and made my first African-American friends.
It's true that there are a lot of books littering my past, but really, all those Cherry Ames novels I read as a kid don't have to be why I went into the medical field. Some could argue that A Wrinkle in Time and Sea Horse in the Sky are not the reason I later wrote all these SF books, and that The Long Winter didn't necessarily inspire my Dream Mountain or Rebel Ice.
No, now that I think about it, it was probably cartoons, or pinball games, or random jolts of creative inspiration beamed into my kid brain from the cosmos at large. How could mere books change any kid's life?
Seriously now, with all the very cool gadgets and gizmos out there that children want, and working parents who are exhausted by the time they get home from the day job, books are not high on anyone's priority list. I understand. I know it's also a lot easier to sit a kid in front of a TV screen than curl up with them and spend a half-hour with Sam I am as he convinces his stubborn pal to try those green eggs.
But I believe reading exercises the mind, inspires the soul, and encourages kids not only to see someone else's dream worlds, but to actively use their own imaginations when engaging the real world around them. Given the state of our species and the planet, I think we need all the imaginative, creative future adults we can nurture. And they need green eggs & Sam.