Monday, June 23, 2014

For the Love of Books: Our Time Reading Together

The kids and I just started a Bill Bryson book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. I've been a fan of Bill Bryson for many years now, ever since discovering his book, A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, which was a really long book tape I picked up at the Topeka Public Library many years ago. The kids were still pretty little and we were doing a lot of driving back and forth to playdates then, so I listened to the stories in the car and I found them good background listening while we worked on art projects and physical tasks around the house, like cleaning. Evie, my oldest, says she remembers bits and pieces from the book. I started reading At Home on my own, but quickly decided it was a book we'd have fun reading together, so I suggested it, and after a couple of trial chapters, Evie and Kaman were all in. (We will have to catch Maddie up as she was away at camp when we got started.)

There was a time when I worried that once the kids started reading on their own, they wouldn't need me to read books to them anymore. And they don't need me, anymore, but that hasn't slowed us down any. It's only been six years since I had a need-to-read-to kid in the house, and I can hardly remember what that was like anymore. Though I don't spend as much of my time reading aloud as I once did, the reading we do now is more challenging and every bit as enjoyable, as far as I'm concerned. I am happy that the kids seem to continue to look forward to our books together as much as they seem to enjoy reading on their own.

When the kids were little, I would sometimes read until my voice grew hoarse. Evie would bring me book after book, and on our visits to the library she started making me read a page or two from the books on the shelves before she would agree to check them out. She learned quickly that beautiful pictures didn't necessarily equate to a good story. Evie had very little tolerance, in fact, for easy readers. She wanted depth and conflict and never seemed to tire of the words.

I remember one day sitting in the recliner with a sleeping baby Kaman on my lap. I was re-reading The Mists of Avalon, one of my all-time favorite books. Evie climbed up beside me and asked me to read so that she could hear the words. I thought for a minute that I should probably put my book away and let her select one of her own story books for us to read, but then I reconsidered. I began reading outloud and she was hooked. She didn't sit through the whole book, of course, but it was then that I decided our reading selections should be based on good story rather than tailored for age.

Everything from Pippi Longstocking to Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! became fair game. We have started books and put them away because they didn't hold our interest. We read a few books on a whim that turned out to be so fascinating they opened up whole new topics we'd never before thought to explore. I've read and enjoyed books with the kids that I was unsucessful at reading on my own at earlier times of my life. When Evie became a reader, she and I took turns reading aloud. Maddie joined us within a couple of years, and finally Kaman, whose skill for reading aloud now includes reading in different accents.

Over the years, the kids and I have enjoyed membership in different book clubs, both together and individually, but I think the book club of four that I have with my children is my all-time favorite, and it is certainly the longest running that I have ever been involved with.

No comments: