When I was pregnant with Umberto one of the things that excited me the most was the idea of read a louds. I had this vision of us, sitting in a rocking chair, or lying in bed, Umberto on my lap as I read to him. Before he was born I began to acquire children's chapter books. I read the Harry Potter series while he was still a newborn. I could not wait until the day he was old enough to begin this tradition.
Perhaps this desire grew from my own childhood. One of my happy memories involved read a louds. My mom, for all her faults, was a wonderful reader. She read to us all the time: C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Dickens. I remember lying on the bed when I was sixteen listening to her read to my youngest brother. It was a rare moment of closeness and connection within my family. No matter how angry she was, or how depressed, she would always pull us to her and read.
Thus my son's told resistance to being read to was a tad disappointing. He could sit through picture books so long as they weren't too long but unless they were over in a few minutes he was gone. I persisted but after realizing it was really bothering much more than it should, I let it go for awhile. But last year I started to work him into chapter books. I began with comic books which he loved. They had length but lots of pictures. Then we moved to middle books: chapter books with a picture every couple of pages. Now we're at chapter books that have about one picture per page. Better yet Umberto loves our read alouds. The other day he trotted over our newest book in hand, and silently placed in my hands. I almost cried. It's funny how important this little thing is to me.
What it is I think is that I don't have many models for family. My own family was a mess, and there was very little that I wish to bring into my own family. But my mom did good when she read to us. It wasn't just that she introduced us to books. She opened herself up to us in ways she didn't during the day. She held us to her, and created each evening before a bed a safe place. Here no one was angry, or fighting. For an hour everyday, we were the family I longed to have. My favorite books when I was a child where things like the Happy Hollisters, the Little House books, anything with a happy family in it. And at night, I had that perfect family.
I have no illusions that my family is perfect or ever will be. But the one good model I can fall back on is creating a safe magical word each night. Everything else I cobble together.
I have a post about the actual books here.