Sunday, March 19, 2017
A Special Gallery for International Read to Me Day.
Today, March 19th, is International Read to Me Day. All the photos I've featured here are of my dad, reading books with his grandchildren, on various occasions.
One of my very earliest memories, at the age of 2 or 3, was lying on the couch while he read with me. Mum would say, 'She's too little to pick it up. You're teaching her too early.' And he'd reply, 'No, she's doing good.'
I clearly remember being able to read the words of stories when nobody knew I could. Dad would read out loud, and I'd skim my eyes down, seeing what was coming. The knack of reading must have snapped into place for me some time when he still didn't realise I'd picked it up. That memory has taught me never to assume I can guess the extent of what any young child will understand.
Many people agree Dad was onto a good thing. Some even read aloud to their unborn babies, propping the books on their big, pregnant bellies. There's no harm getting them used to the soothing meter of your voice, and the flow of a good story. Even if you think those parents are a bit too eager to start, it's better than erring the opposite way. A Primary School teacher once told me that some children come into her classroom not even knowing what a book is, or how to turn pages.
I love reading to anyone who will listen, so my children were fair game. I found it gave me a great, early indication of the ways their characters would develop. My elder son is a witty person who can wield irony and sarcasm like weapons, and he used to chuckle at funny or snarky comments delivered by his favourite characters. My daughter is a hands-on person who always wanted me to read her a particular picture book with actions of different family members doing things around the house. And they both thought it was hilarious when their baby brother would request, 'It's Not Easy being a Bunny' for the thousandth time, until we all knew it by heart and groaned at the sight of it.
There's a bit of self-indulgence in reading aloud for me. I used to enjoy acting on the stage in school drama lessons, so having the chance to assume the different characters' voices and mannerisms is the next best thing. It's such fun when I know a good part is coming, but they have no idea, and I get to anticipate their reactions. That's one of the best rewards for taking the time to read out loud to your kids.
I highly recommend reading to the children in your life whenever you can. It's such an easy thing to do, and there's no bonding experience quite like it. You don't need to spend time and money searching for different components. I went through a stage in homeschooling when I spent hours planning lessons someone else had designed, racing around to shops looking for objects which might work as props, making myself stressed. And so often, all that effort to create fancy memories fell flat, or got laughed at. The best memories turned out to be our reading times, and all we needed was a book! The benefits are huge, carrying on years later. People who are read to learn about the world without leaving their seats, and learn to use their imaginations to put themselves in other people's places. It's a bit like borrowing someone else's brains and becoming a virtual traveller. Even now that my older children are young adults, we still reminisce about the characters we enjoyed several years ago.
If you assume you need to wait until they're older, or until you decide their understanding capacity has developed to certain standard, the small of gap of time you're looking for may pass so quickly, you blink and miss it. Then it may be too easy to decide they're too old to be read aloud to after all. Or when you do try, it may feel too weird all round, if you've never done it before. The time to begin is when they're young enough to make story time second nature for all of you. I still read to my youngest son, who is almost thirteen. Although he's been old enough to read to himself for years, it's still the best way of sharing a story. And not long ago, even my eighteen year old daughter got tired eyes from trying to read a book quickly, and asked me if I'd read some to her for a bit.
Dad died just last month. While sorting through photos to put together a slide show for his funeral, we noticed this wonderful thing I'm showing you now. His habit of reading to young children, which started with his own kids, carried through to the next generation. These photos were all taken at different times, spread throughout the months and years. We never set out to take photos of him reading to the kids. It just worked out that way, because that's how they all loved to spend time with their Papa. There was no way we could miss the theme, since the evidence was scattered all through the albums.
So I've made this picture tribute with two purposes. As well as observing International Read to Me Day, the photos you see in this blog post are a tribute to a loving and involved Papa, featuring four of his six grandchildren, Jarrad, Travis, Logan and Emma. I'm at the stage where the initial shock of his passing is over, and we're all doing life as normal, enjoying the good parts, as he would have liked. But at frequent moments, I'm almost bowled over by waves of sadness as it sinks in afresh that I'll never see him again in this lifetime. But then we remind ourselves how lucky we are to have so many memories like these to draw back on.
Also see related posts, Writers living with kids and kids living with writers.
And of course, there's this post about reading out loud.