I’m joining in wonderful Emerging Mummy Sarah’s Practices of Parenting Carnival today. Sarah has done a series on her own practices in the journey of mothering her “tinies.” She has been gracious and generous with her words, offering ideas that have worked for her in the dailiness of nourishing and nurturing. And now she has invited us to join in.
Of course I read to my babies, in this book-rich house, read Sandra Boynton and Dr. Seuss and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. And with my preschool sons I delved into longer stories, pioneering the West with the Ingalls family and laughing and groaning as Ramona filled the sink with toothpaste. But inwardly, without thinking about it very much, I thought of reading as something that I’d hand off to my kids; when my boys learned to read on their own, that’s how reading would happen for them in our house.
But then I read Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook, and my vision of sharing books was changed forever. I was wowed by Trelease’s research that showed how reading aloud to our children, and continuing to read aloud long after they become fluent readers themselves. deepens and enhances their love for books and family connection. Spending time and energy reading together communicates louder than any lecture the value and strength of reading.
But what wins my heart, over and over, what keeps me searching for the next read aloud and opening it in the pre-dawn before school and over the emptied plates after supper is not the compelling research. It’s not even that I now have two boys who are ardent readers, though I credit our many read-aloud hours for their love of books.
There is power in sharing story, in the immediacy in sharing it at the same time. We laugh at humor and absurdity and root for the characters we love. We wait together, breath held, to resolve cliffhangers. They’ve had to wait for me to pull it together, overcome by the emotion of a passage. I’ve stretched myself, sometimes at the end of a tiring day, to bring a tale to them with all the voices and inflection and passion it deserves. And always, always, it gives back more energy than it takes.
Keeping reading aloud together as part of our family time keeps us discovering forgotten places together, keeps us all vicariously experiencing some of the same adventures and dreaming the same dreams. As my boys, now eight and eleven, grow into more discovery of themselves, their Maker and Creation, we have as companions characters who are doing the same, characters we get to know alongside one another.
Finally, reading aloud together slows us down. It is gloriously inefficient, and the better we are at it, the longer the dishes sit in the evening, and the longer, in the summer, we sprawl in pajamas into the mid-morning hours. It cannot be hurried, and I’ve come to value those things that cannot be hurried. As it slows time to the cadence of language and the turn of a page, this simple, simple practice deepens it too. We are all here, in the moments we share in the grip of a good story, and we keep coming back for more.