I have a picture of myself at age 2, sitting on my great grandmother’s lap. We are at the kitchen table and she is reading to me. Looking over my childhood pictures, I am amazed at the number of photos that show me being read to by various relatives.
A favorite great aunt has often told me how my uncle would finally hide my stacks of books for brief periods because they were so weary of my constant demands to be read to.
After I taught myself to read with “Lovable Lyle”, books were my first friends and as a child I surrounded myself with them. Laura Ingalls, Tom Sawyer, and Jo March lived and breathed in my mind.
Frank McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes” wrote of the importance books played in his bleak childhood in
When I look back over my own years of parenting my sons, I know I have made significant mistakes. I didn’t say “no” and mean it often enough, I didn’t make them do enough housework- I’ve catered to them too much. The list could go on. I have, however, done at least one thing very well. From the time they were infants, I read aloud to them every day. We began with picture books and moved on until, by ages 5, 6, and 7- we were reading aloud young adult fiction books and even some adult books with ease.
While little, the boys shared a room which made the evening reading routine easy. Once everyone was settled in, I would read each night. I couldn’t wait to share my childhood favorites. Out came my old Little House books, Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott. I discovered lists of good books especially for boys on the internet and we delved into Gary Paulsen and adventures with Brian and his survival in the wilderness with only a hatchet to help him survive. We eventually read all Paulsen’s books and many were so
fraught with excitement that the boys would demand many chapters read each night. The laughter we shared as we read “Harris and Me”- the tale of a boy’s summer spent on a wild cousins’ farm, will always remain in my memory. We loved “The Call of the Wild” Occasionally I pushed ahead of their listening abilities and made mistakes in choices. “The Red Badge of Courage” was too advanced and dry when read aloud. After a few chapters, and too many yawns, I admitted defeat set it aside for a later date. “Watership Down”, however, was loved and requested twice (and is still a favorite with all three). We read the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy well before the movies came out- and the movies were made more vibrant because we knew the characters intimately through out reading.
Throughout their childhood, evening meant the routine of reading together, stopping to talk about scenes, character, a new word meaning; anything that related to the books. My middle son sometimes grew fidgety, and when this happened, he knew that he could work quietly with a basket of Legos while still listening, or draw with pen and paper on the clipboard by his bed. I kept a list each year of the books we finished and it was fun to try to top last years count.
During these years it was great to have wonderful children’s’ librarians to recommend books and to talk about books we loved. I think of Mrs. Doherty, a great librarian who kindly assisted my sons through grade school and is one their lists of best teachers. I also think of Paula Valentine. Paula is a wonderful librarian and teacher of children and one of the kindest people I know. We certainly miss her.
I know when I am old and my boys are living their lives with their own families, I will always remember the books and laughter we shared.