” You better mind your parents, and your teachers fond and dear,
And cherish those who love you,and dry the orphan’s tear,
And help the poor and needy ones who cluster all about,
Or the Gobbl-ins will get you
– excerpt from Little Orphan Annie by James Whitcomb Riley
When I was expecting my first child, I read that it was important to read to your children from the very start. And read aloud I did, right from the start, as recommended. My mother-in-law just about had a heart attack when she walked in on me reading aloud to my infant from some bodice-ripping romance novel I had around the house! But eventually we graduated to board books, like Pat the Bunny, filled with rhymes and textures and Goodnight Moon with the rhythms and rituals of bedtime. When the next child joined the family, we still read together during the day but each had their own books read to them at bedtime.
Reading aloud is such an uplifting and fun activity. Have you ever read the little Golden Book, The Monster at the End of this Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street? I worked hard to sound as much like Grover as possible as he walked with us through the book, trying to stop us from getting to the scary monster at the end of this book (can you guess who it is?). There are so many fun books to read aloud. We loved Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne featuring such fun poetry lines as
” Have you been a good girl? Have you been a good girl?
Its always the end of the loveliest day,”
Have you been a good girl?
I went to the zoo and they waited to say:
Have you been a good girl?
Well, why would I want to be bad at the zoo?
And should I be likely to see if I had?
So that’s why its funny of Mummy and Dad,
This asking and asking in case I was bad…Well, have you been a good girl, Jane?”
Rhyme and humor certainly get children’s attention. But some books have lines and morals that stay with you for life. My son called home from college one afternoon. A classmate in one of his engineering classes had told the professor and class about what a bad day he had. The professor replied, “Some days are like that”, to which my son added, “Even in Australia!”. To my son’s amazement, no one else in the class got it. Did you? If not, its not too late to read Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. But hurry! Other must-reads for lines and morals include American folk tales, featuring such gems as “Don’t throw me in that briar patch”, which is actually a sly way to convince someone to do the very thing you want them to do.
Reading books aloud is a great way to teach your children to read. As they hear stories that they enjoy repeated over time, they begin to decode and sound out some of the simple words. When my older child learned how to read, her younger. very competitive brother memorized a simple book. Every time big sister demonstrated or practiced her developing reading skills, he pulled that book off the shelf and performed. Reading aloud became such a comfort ritual in our house that when we faced a sudden loss of a loved one, the children (teens to young adults by then) gathered together with me while we read familiar childhood tales.
If you’ve also read to your family, share your story and favorite reads. If you haven’t, give it a try!
(Strickland W. Gillilan, The Reading Mother.)