Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wumpy flappy... or reading together

(Bragging rights to a superior knowledge of children's pictures books goes to the first person who can correctly identify the quote in the title.  I'll tell you what it is tomorrow... oh, and my children are excluded, just so they know.)

If you're already convinced about the necessity and benefits of reading to your children, even after they can read themselves, then you can either skip this post, or read it and nod knowingly.  You already know that reading books together is good not only for your children but for the whole family.  Each family has its own distinct culture, a culture comprised of shared memories, traditions (or lack of), habits, beliefs, and language.  The more shared memories and traditions, the richer the culture and the richer the family life.

Reading books and stories together is a way to create shared memories and language.  Our family has a host of phrases which we have picked-up from various books we have read together.  All it takes is for someone to say a phrase and not only does everyone else recognize it, but the underlying meaning of the phrase is immediately known as well.  For instance, when Frances says, "Life isn't very good around here anymore..." in A Baby Sister for Frances, everyone knows first off the context of the quote, but also that it has become a family code for someone feeling as if they are not being paid attention to and nothing is working out right.  Or sometimes an older sibling will tell a younger one that he or she is being Ramona, which in my book is a whole lot nicer than telling someone they're a pest.

The other way reading together creates shared memories and language is through the discussions which result from everyone having read or heard the same book.  Currently, TM is obsessed with the idea of finding buried treasure.  (I'm thankful that the ground is frozen solid.  Perhaps this will have passed before it thaws in the spring.)  This was brewing even before we read Tom Sawyer, but reading about how Tom and Huck found buried treasure has certainly played into those desires.  We've had quite a few discussions about where and if one could find buried treasure and what one should do with it.  (TM wants to find it because his dream is that the entire family would go together to visit Vietnam.  We have told him that would be very expensive and his solution was the whole buried treasure-thing.)  Other times we've read books and had discussions about issues of character or morality.  Discussions about important things which may be uncomfortable without the context of a book or character to talk about.  Little boys are much more likely to talk about why it was wrong for Little Britches to lie to his father than they are if they are worried they will be getting into trouble.

A couple other notes about reading together.  First, it is something that has to be planned and it takes time to become a habit.  In our family we read together at lunch time and at bedtime.  It is just what we do and everyone expects it and looks forward to it.  We build it into our day.  (Actually we read together at many other times as well, but these are the times we read our current chapter books.)  Second, it is never too soon to begin.  Even little babies and toddlers can enjoy being read to.  Currently, books are some of L. and G.'s favorite things and they love to hear the same story over and over and over... It's a good thing there are many readers in the house so we can trade off when one of us gets tired of reading about what the polar bear hears.  Third, the books that have made the longest lasting impressions on our family are the classics.  Some are newer, some are older, but they are all books which deal with important themes and use language which forces the listener to work a bit.  There is nothing dumbed down about them, nor are they filled with the current fad of writing books for young people which deal with the sordid underbelly of life.  Yes, bad things happen, but that is not what I want my children dwelling on.  Be choosy in what you and your children spend time reading.

But most of all, just sit down and read together.  Get a blanket, find a big chair or couch, and snuggle together while you enjoy a good story.

4 comments:

Steffie said...

Snurp

Courtney said...

Knuffle Bunny, of course! Have you read Knuffle Bunny Free yet? I cried!

TJC said...

Well, I'm a day late and a dollar short. I might as well have just written, "Aggle flaggle klabble."

thecurryseven said...

My personal favorite is "Trixie went boneless."

J.

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