Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On being read to

by Rick Blechta

I really enjoyed Aline’s post yesterday, especially so since just the day before I was chatting with my wife and son about how enjoyable it was having someone read to you.

I’ve previously written here on Type M how one of my fondest recollections from childhood was being read to by my mother when I was ill. Early on, I couldn’t read, but even after I could, if I was especially under the weather, my mother would appear in my doorway with a book and read a chapter or two (if she could spare the time). This would happen a few times during the day..

I remember being so comforted by this. Perhaps I even made small illnesses a tad larger so that I could stay home from school and be read to. My mom was also an above average reader so that really helped. She could bring Uncle Wiggly adventures or Treasure Island vividly to life for a young listener. Later on, she’d bring me a book that she thought I’d enjoy reading while I was ill. Thus, I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for the first time – and this time I definitely malingered for a few extra days so I could finish those books.

When my own boys were a similar age, I would have loved to perform the same service for them, but alas, I had to be off at work doing my job of “crowd control with a beat” (teaching band to middle school students). My wife would read to them when she could but she was also busy. It’s always bothered me a bit that we might not have shared this pleasurable experience with them enough.

Reading to our boys, though, was a big part of the going-to-bed ritual. I must have read The Cat in the Hat several hundred nights running to my eldest (I’m not exaggerating), to the point where I could recite the entire story from memory (shades of Homer!). Since I was usually on “night duty” with the lads — my wife off at the Conservatory teaching flute as soon as I could get home — I read to them a lot, certainly most nights, until they were around six or seven.

The interesting thing to me is that later on one became an avid reader and the other probably reads one or two books per decade. However, the latter son is a now the father of two young ones, and lo and behold, a big part of his family’s going-to-bed ritual (at least for his 3-year-old) is reading a story or two every night before lights out. When my wife and I babysit, we’re more than happy to indulge the lad — probably, truth be known, with more stories than he gets from his parents on a nightly basis.

Of course over the years, I’ve shared my early reading experiences with my wife. Maybe ten years ago I caught the “flu from hell” and man, for a week was I sick! Miserable and alone upstairs one afternoon, my darling wife must have sensed I could use something special. Lo and behold, she appeared at the door, some book or other I’d been reading in hand, and asked, “Would it help you feel better if I read to you for a bit?”

My heart melted and I was a child again.


Rick Blechta said...

If you read the original version of this post, my apologies. That first paragraph was really quite dreadful.

So much for my proofreading skills...

Eileen Goudge said...

Enjoyed your post, Rick. I remember my dad reading Uncle Wiggly aloud to us when we were kids. That and Uncle Remus (probably considered politically incorrect nowadays, but I recall loving it at the time), Winnie the Pooh and Wizard of Oz. As soon as I had my own library card, I was raiding the stacks, reading every chance I got. My early introduction to reading has become a lifelong love affair.

Rick Blechta said...

Once TV came into our lives, it was easier for parents (who lead very busy lives) to park their kid(s) in front of it and gain some very necessary time to make dinner, wash clothes, etc.

It takes time to read to your kids, time many people think they can't spare, but it is also a great way to bond with your children and reinforce that you care about them and are there for them. And in the end, it will really pay off, whether your child becomes a reader or not.

Thanks for your thoughts, as always!