Before baby, I read at least three books a week. I'd sneak in a few chapters of a novel whenever possible. But as a mom, the hours I once reserved for slipping into the pages of a story disappeared.

I found my "must read" pile of tattered hardbacks replaced by a stack of rainbow-colored papers from preschool and ballet class. Itineraries, snack schedules, and parent handbooks took precedence over the texts that once transported me to foreign destinations. And though the words printed on the sheets don't compare to the great works, it certainly affects my child if the snack I send isn't purple and square like the assignment specified.

While growing up, I thought my mom only read magazines and the newspaper, but looking back, it was all that time allotted. She'd skim the pages of Family Circle and Woman's Day for the latest on child rearing and holiday recipes. Now an empty nester, she has a nightstand full of books.

It made me realize that the hours I spend staring at the labels of the foods my children consume and the products I buy aren't for not. The knowledge gained may not be as entertaining as that of a piece of literature, but it is just as valuable to digest.