Friday, November 16, 2007


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.


Ernesto said...

I can't believe I hadn't discovered your other blog!

Thank you SO MUCH for this post.

Ginger said...

You're welcome:P The other blog is mostly about the kids and it is supposed to be about homeschooling. I'm working more on posting there about our experiences.

John B-R said...

"But the books I was most excited about were the "Little House" books. These were books I LOVED as a child ..."

When my kids were little, Kathy read them the whole *Little House* series. It took months. One time I walked into the kids' bedroom. The three of them were lying on Sam's bed, sobbing. "What's wrong?" I asked. "Jack died" they managed to blubber. "Who on earth is Jack?" I asked. "The DOG" they wailed.

Yeah, reading to/with kids is magical.

I taught my kids to read, by the way. I wrote them stories. This was well before they started school. Helping them learn to read was magical too.

I love reading your blog.

Lolabola said...

I love this post too. Reading with kids is one of the best things to do. Especially when they notice quirky things you do while you read (like twitch your nose). I'm so glad he likes it now!

Jess said...

Reading aloud was a ritual in my house growing up as well. My dad always, every night, read me this silly book called "Big Dog...Little Dog." After awhile, it was less about the book than it was the reading and the time. I loved (and still love) The Little House books. That's interesting that you forgot the violence, that is what stands out in my memory! Those pioneers needed every bit of food they could get, I guess. Have you read "Birchbark House" by Louise Erdrich? It's meant to be a companion book to "Little House in the Big Woods." Erdrich loved the Little House books but not the treatment of Native Americans in the books, so wrote "Birchbark House" about an Ojibwa family. It's really good.

John B-R said...

Jess, did you ever get to *Go Dog Go*?? Some of the same dog characters, I think, as in *Big Dog ... Little Dog* To this day I LOVE *Go Dog Go*. I would guess that about 40% of Kathy's and my conversation consists of snippets from that book ...

Ginger said...

Thanks for the recommendation. John B-R. they did a play here on "Go Dog Go" which was a riot. They used the text supplemented with songs. It was awesome.

Jess said...

I've never read "Go Dog Go!" I have to find it. Thanks!