Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Simple Suggestion #125... Read together

My youngest daughter, on the verge of adolescence, is becoming very independent, which is a good thing. Every time she takes responsibility for her own room, her own activities and her own care means less fuss for me. Being 6 and nearly 4 years younger than her sisters, Julia sometimes hounds them for attention when she's bored, but she's getting much better at doing her own thing.

Reading is usually her entertainment of choice, and it has long been something we've done together. We used to bring home library bags crammed full to overflowing with books, so many that I wrecked my shoulder lugging one around ten years ago (acupuncture fixed it, but that's another moodling for another day). We would sit together on the couch for hours, looking at pictures and reading stories... until suddenly, picture books were no longer the thing, and comic books became Julia's reading of choice.

Ever try reading a comic book to a child? Somehow, it doesn't work, or at least, it didn't for me. The comic book phase seems like it will never end because Archie and friends come out with a new issue weekly, and ever since we saw the Avengers movie, the Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye and the Black Widow have come home in the library bag, too. I have a hard enough time following those stories' illustrations -- reading them aloud would never make any sense because their story lines are so visually demanding.

So on Friday, when we stopped at the library and Julia headed straight for the comic book section, I decided to find something different for her. On the Young Readers Choice Award shelves were a selection of novels, and among them, I found Jacqueline Kelly's The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Square Fish (MacMillan) 2008, ISBN 978-0-312-65930-1). I read the flyleaf to Julia, and she shrugged noncommittally. So I announced, "I think we'll have to read this one together."

Sunday was a rainy, perfect day for reading a book together, but could I convince Julia? She was lost in her comic books and didn't want to read with me. So I started reading about Calpurnia all by myself, and found myself laughing aloud at a girl who decided to cut her hair an inch per week since her mother wouldn't hear of a girl with short hair no matter the Texas heat. Callie reported that it took four weeks for Viola, the cook, to notice, and she just looked at her suspiciously and didn't say a word.

My laughter convinced Julia that I might have found a story worth sharing, so at bedtime, we read together for a half an hour, our enjoyment magnified as we paused to comment on something funny, or to question how something was worded, or to wonder where the story was headed. The first of many wonderful bedtimes!

I've always loved to read books aloud. As a teacher, I made sure to have Miss P.'s reading time at the end of each day, and if it somehow got missed, my students complained vociferously, and I felt cheated. I was recently joking to my husband that since I'm no longer teaching, and since our girls have moved beyond the "read to me, Mommy" phase of their lives, I should start a read-aloud club for kids at the public library so I can read to other peoples' kids. Or volunteer at a senior's home. I don't need a large group -- just one other person is all that's necessary for sharing an enjoyable story. Six years ago, the last time I was dizzy, my husband painted our garage doors as I read him The DaVinci Code. I had read it on my own earlier, but enjoyed the second reading with Lee a lot more because of the conversations that erupted here and there as we went.

In January of 2011, my friend, Charleen, started a book club for a group of her friends. So far, we've managed to read and discuss eight books, and while I love book club conversations after we've completed the book, I often wish I had the group to read along with me so that we could discuss things along the way. Then we wouldn't have the excuse that we can't remember parts of the story. But who has the kind of time that a read-along book club would take?

Julia and me, that's who. But there will come a day when she'll be too busy, so I'll have to go looking for someone else with whom to read.

Is there someone with whom you can enjoy a good book? If so, count yourself lucky, indeed! And if not, and sharing good literature is something you think you'd like to do, check with your nearest nursing home... That's my plan for the future, because I sure hope someone will read to me when I'm at that stage of life!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

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