Read to your child!
I read out loud to my Reading Workshop classes (a 9th grade reading intervention class for struggling or reluctant readers) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last semester, I read to them: Coraline, The Face on the Milk Carton, and we listened to Z for Zachariah on tape. They hated listening to the tape (and I mean TAPE — do you know how hard it is to find a tape player?) and voted that I read all the books from now on. So, for three class periods, I put on a full show: There is yelling, whispering, occasional running around — I mean, theater is in my blood after all. For those of you who don’t know: My parents met when they were both puppeteers for a traveling puppet troupe. Right. I know. That sounds like I made that up, but I didn’t.
I have very distinct memories of watching their puppet shows as a child — I can still remember the way the big blue velt curtains smelled when we pulled them from the trunks. My parents took puppets with them on their honeymoon. Yes, let’s pause and reflect on that. What bothers me most is that I didn’t find that strange until much later in life — like college.
But I digress…
My 14 year-olds LOVE being read to. Our first book together for the start of second semester is the popular and page-turning The Hunger Games. Every day I hear, “Can you keep reading to us? Just keep reading the book!” They know we only get to read on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this book is so engaging that I can dangle it like a carrot. “Well,” I’ll say, “If you’re super focused today and I don’t have to take ANY cell phones away, I’ll read for 15 minutes.” This usually works.
This just reminds me how powerful reading a book together can be. I still remember my mom reading me all of the Ramona Quimby books — that shared reading experience fostered my love of reading AND inspired my imagination. (Maybe I was channeling Ramona when I decided to give myself glasses one Sunday morning during church…with a permanent marker. I had one lens drawn around my left eye before I was caught and was only embarrassed that I had to walk through church with unfinished glasses.)
For my birthday last year, Matt’s grandma gave me this book called Honey for the Child’s Heart. The book encourages reading as a family: Limit screen time and set aside family reading time. When your kids are younger, parents choose a book to read out loud; children gather around and (ideally) lose themselves in literary adventures. Then, as you cultivate a family of readers, that time can evolve into a time where everyone picks up their own books and reads silently.
Honey for the Child’s Heart contains an 85-paged annotated bibliography of books (divided by age groups) parent and kid-tested. Some are my old favorites and some I’ve never heard of before, but just reading the list makes me inspired. I can picture evenings with my family — gathered around a book, my kids in their pajamas rapt with attention. We all dream of the family traditions we get to start when we have our own families (isn’t that why people have children? It’s not for the unconditional love…because we all know that doesn’t last long).
Elliott might be solely fixated on Good Night Gorilla right now, but someday I hope he’ll stay still long enough for family reading night. This might be the only way to get Matt to finish a book too! It’s a bonus for everyone.