Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Being read to

For many of us (hopefully most!) our first exposure to books was when someone (parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, etc) read to us. Right this moment my wife is reading a few of his favourite books to our grandson. Nearly every time he comes over, he asks to be read to. It was the same with his dad and his uncle. Generally I put the boys to bed and books were an important — dare I say critical — part of the bedtime ritual. All these years later, I can still do a large part of The Cat in the Hat from memory. With son #1 wanting it every night for nearly two years, how could memorizing it not happen?

Hopefully, reading to them starts children off on the path to reading in adulthood. We were only 50% successful in this regard. One of our boys reads incessantly, the other confines his reading to the newspaper and occasional magazines. Why? I can’t tell you — but wish I could. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.

As I got older, the only time I was read to was when I was really ill. That’s how I got my first exposure to a “real” book: Uncle Wiggily in the Country. Even though I only got the story in dribs and drabs doled out when my mom wasn’t busy, I was certainly hooked on reading. Around seven at the time, I certainly had decent reading skills, but it suddenly became important to read books on my own.

From then on, I devoured books. Any spare moments I had, you would find some book or other in my hands, and I read anything that took my fancy. While friends were stuck on comic books, I was reading history or short stories or novels or biographies, anything that caught my interest.

By the time university rolled around, reading has to take a back seat — although I didn’t like that necessity. Sometimes I would sneak in some reading when I should have been doing other more important things. I inevitably paid the price, but I didn’t completely regret what I’d done.

Do I still enjoy being read to? You bet. But now it’s generally audio books (especially on long car trips). If there’s a radio play, I’m first in line to listen. There’s something about a voice (only) telling you a story that brings me great comfort. Perhaps it’s a harkening back to my childhood with my mother’s gentle voice reading me The Jungle Book or Uncle Wiggily stories, but whatever the reason, I love to be read to.

How about you?

And I can’t wait to read Uncle Wiggily and The Jungle Book to my grandson. I just mentioned this to my wife and she told me that my (non-reading) son is already delving in to The Jungle Book with Jackson. Wow! That’s the best news I’ve got in a long time. Maybe we didn’t do so badly — vis-a-vis reading — with our second son after all.


Sybil Johnson said...

As soon as I learned to read, I always had a book in hand. I pretty much read anything and everything. The library introduced me to hot air ballooning, falconry, history of various eras, the history of Coca-Cola and other soft drinks, Esperanto and a whole host of other things that I can't remember. (Yes, I read lots of fiction, too.) My sister is also an avid reader though I don't think she reads as much non-fiction as I do.

Donis Casey said...

My parents read to me from the beginning--way before I could speak English. By the time I was three, I could read pretty well on my own. Thank you, parents, thank you thank you. Reading to a child is one of the best things ever to do for them.

Sybil Johnson said...

Forgot to mention that, yes, my parents read to me and when she was old enough my sister did, too.

Rick Blechta said...

I believe that reading to (especially) young children can do so many good things for them that leave it out of your child's upbringing at your peril! Sure, it's easy to park kids in front of the TV or let them punch keys on your computer, but it's that human touch and the spark a human voice coming from right next to you brings to the experience that really sets it apart from any other way of delivering stories.

Sybil Johnson said...

Maybe we were fortunate in that we grew up in a time where there weren't quite so many distractions. Sure, TV was there but there weren't that many channels and no videos. No parking us in front of the TV set!