I am cuddled in bed with my youngest. This, after she has jumped all over the bed and I have calmed her down by rubbing cream on her hands and feet, a nightly calming ritual as much as the bedtime story we are about to read together. Tonight’s selection, Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, is the story of a fruit bat separated from her mother after an encounter with an owl. We have read this book before, many times. We settle in, propped up by pillows to enjoy the read. She listens attentively, pausing to ask questions when necessary. I read, holding on to this quiet moment. It is a rare treasure to sit quietly anywhere, what with our typical busy family life.
I love this time of the evening. It is special time, alone time, just the two of us sharing an imaginary world found between two slipcovers. We are transported to places far away and dreamy. I wonder, as I read, where fruit bats really live. My daughter wonders about the trees in the illustrations and why they have been drawn to look like poles instead of the leafy green towers of strength we are accustomed to here in P.E.I.
Down the hall, my two daughters are reading their chosen books. My second youngest is waiting for a turn at the read aloud, and she comes down the hall to check on me. “I’ll be down to read to you next,” I reassure. My older two no longer need me to read to them, although occasionally I still do. For old time’s sake.
The benefits of reading to children, according to all kinds of research conducted by many institutes have been found to be exponential. We see as teachers in the school system. Consistently, those children who have been read to or encouraged to read at home, are the ones whom meet grade level requirements and beyond. And yet, so often reading is shoved to the back of the agenda in the after-school slate of activities. We can find time to do most everything else, but read to ourselves and our children, it seems. And our children are finding the same: reading is often as much of a chore as it can be a bore.
We must do better than this. And we can! But it takes commitment and practice.
I was talking to a friend today about my newest interest in blogging, and she made mention of my lengthy posts. “I see how long it is, and I just have to say “sorry”, it’s too long to read!” I realize that there are many valid reasons for why people choose to read some things and not others, and that not everyone can take the time to read a personal blog. But it got me thinking: we live in a fast food/fast fix society, and most of the time, we are not afforded the luxury of slowing down our busy schedules enough to read anything more than a headline, synopsis or summary. We want the bottom line, not the explanation.
In a world where life is expected to be a blur of commitments, expectations and time on task, isn’t it a wondrous pleasure to take the time to read, word for word, line by line; savouring each pleasurable description as if it were a tasty morsel, instead of just cramming it down one’s throat for the sake of sustenance? The utter joy of reading and the ability to read and comprehend: it is a pleasure and privilege beyond comparison.
I check in on my son. Over the past month, I had read to him some of the classic, Swiss Family Robinson, but of late we have not had time in the evenings to do so. He goes to bed later now, and we do not always take the time to read together. Tonight, he is under the covers and settled in for the night with a book on dinosaurs that he got from our church library. I ask him if he would like for me to read to him. He is intent on his own reading and barely lifts his head. That is to be expected of a serious reader, engrossed in another world, another time and place. I leave him to do what I have always had as my goal: allow him the pleasure of independent reading. Although I will not read as much to him in time, I will reap the benefits of having read to him as a child for many, many years to come.