Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We've Turned a New Page

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." ~Victor Hugo

"The more that learn to read the less learn how to make a living. That's one thing about a little education. It spoils you for actual work." ~Will Rogers

I found it akin to a weight being lifted off my shoulder.

Don't get me wrong. I think reading to your children (well, my children, not me reading to your children, although that would be fine, too. Nevermind.) is very important. My husband read to our first born while I was still pregnant with her. It was amazing how she would react when he would read her little board books. She would get excited and jump all over the place. It was quite hysterical, albeit occasionally uncomfortable. And since then, too, we have read infinite numbers of words over countless hours to both of our kids.

Oh, to have all that time back ...

But, I digress. (And I have to insert here that even if we could get the time back, we wouldn't want it. The trade-off isn't worth it.)

My husband and I both love books, and have wanted to pass that passion on to our progeny as well. By four months old, our daughter would sit in our laps for hours and look at pictures while we read words to her. Our son, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less.

I worried about it some when he still refused to sit still for a book at a year old.

Oh, woe is me! What have we done wrong? What if he never learns to love reading??

Waah, waah, waah.

But, my self-imposed agony was premature. He did, in his own time (at about 18 months), begin to bring us books and climb in our laps to have them read to him. And last fall, at age five, he sat through chapter books meant for older elementary students and relished every adventure.

"Twenty-One Balloons," "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," "The Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The Cricket in Times Square," ...

Now? Not so much.

We've tried lately to renew his interest in books like that, but if it doesn't have pictures on every page, and preferably in full color, then he's not interested.

Our daughter learned to read in Kindergarten and has devoured every book put in front of her since then, including, most recently, the ominous and often intimidating "The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow." Good story, but whoever identified that to be on a 5th grade reading level needs to have his head examined.

Our son, ironically, actually read earlier and faster than she did. By the time he started Kindergarten, he was quite adept at picking through an early reader. Fifteen months later, he is quite fluid, and can read even better. But he doesn't unless he's forced to.

He has to read a minimum of fifteen minutes a day for school, and I'm telling you, in August, when school started, it was like pulling teeth. Not that he couldn't do it. No, he was very good at it. He just didn't want to.

Until now.

I don't know how long it will last, but yesterday I found him snuggled up in our bed with a stack of Berenstain Bears books. You know the ones ... "The Berenstein Bears and the Green-Eyed Monster," "The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist," "The Berenstein Bears and the Prize Pumpkin," "The Berenstein Bears Go On the Campaign Trail for Sarah Palin ..." (oops - that last one's not out yet.)

I secretly watched him as he read with intensity on his cute little face. I could see his lips forming the words as his eyes scanned the page back and forth. He was ... READING! WILLINGLY!

And I have proof. Bwaaaa haaa haaaaa!

Last night he brought me the stack of books and asked me to read to him. (Yes, the same books.) I made a deal with him - that I would read some to him if he read one to me.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time staying awake when I am reading out loud. I don't think it is the books that do it, though if I am reading them out loud, it's pretty safe to bet they aren't actually that stimulating. One exception: I used to go to a nursing home to read the Bible to a blind, elderly lady and I would yawn every nine or ten verses. It was pathetic. I think, and this is just my theory, that it's the reading out loud that is the problem. I believe it has something to do with taking quick, shallow breaths and not getting enough Oxygen for long periods of time.

Of course, it doesn't help when you're expected to lie in a bed, snuggled up to a little heater child, and read ... while actually staying awake. That could be the problem, but (and Mom, stop laughing at me), I am sticking with the Oxygen theory.

It's much more sophisticated.

OK, so I read him three books, and even stayed awake for 2 1/2 of them. (The kids always know when I start falling asleep because my normal reading style takes on more, shall we say, dramatic pauses. Oh, and my brain makes up bizarre, random stuff that my mouth then says without me knowing it. That might clue them in, too.)

So, anyway, I finally muddled to the end of the third book and passed the baton to my son. He decided he would read to me "The Berenstein Bears Lend a Helping Hand."

I breathed a sigh of relief and snuggled up to his shoulder to watch him read. That was a mistake. Next thing I knew, he was shoving me off from where I was drooling on his arm and crawling out of bed.

"Hey, buddy, where you goin'?"

"I quit. You keep falling asleep."

Hey, give me a break. I'm sleep deprived from all those years of lending you a helping hand. And, oh yeah ... from writing a novel ... which, by the way, I might want someone to read someday, so you'd better keep practicing, boy ...


  1. I am the opposite. I fall asleep when the kids read to me. It was the hardest part of homeschooling. Listening to them read as I was fighting to stay awake!

  2. The Berenstain Bear books drive me crazy. Pop is like the Homer Simpson of children's books. But, I just read The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners to my class (much needed, much help). Glad he is reading!

  3. Paige, they drive me crazy, too. About the time I get to "big tree house down a sunny dirt road in Bear Country," I want to rip my eyelids off. And funny you should say the Homer Simpson thing, because my husband said the same thing a couple days ago when he was handed a stack of those books ... :-)

  4. H-m-m-m...I don't know what the actual cause is but I suspect that falling-asleep-while-reading-aloud-to-little-ones thing is heriditary. I used to specialize in it with you and your brothers and now I can do it just as well with the grandkids. BTW: I'm looking forward to your novel. Does it contain thinly veiled references to family and friends? Be kind to me. :-)

  5. Dear proud grandad,

    Now why in the world would I veil them thinly?

    your beloved daughter


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