Reading to Children

July 2007

Before I was even married, I read to my step-kids. It was a stupid Sesame Street book. When I got done and had put them to bed, their father said to me, “I know why you like to read so much, you read really well.” He is probably right. My mother was a librarian, and my father should have been. I got read to a lot, and I got to see adults reading for fun. Both my brother and I still read quite a bit.

They say you should read to your kids 30 minutes a day. I don’t do that, but I do read to them a lot, and I have learned a couple of things about books. As a parent, you have to make a quick decision. If you think you will not like reading a particular book to your kids, get rid of it as soon as possible, before they have a chance to get attached. This way reading to them is still enjoyable to you. If you aren’t enjoying it, they will catch on.

I don’t have a vendetta against Sesame Street, but their writers just aren’t the same caliber as other contemporary writers. Some of their books are better than others. I really like There is a Monster at the End of this Book. However, none of their books holds a candle to Sandra Boynton or Dr. Seuss. I literally have read Mr. Brown Can Moo over 500 times, to just two kids, and I’m not finished, I still have two to go! Luckily for me, I am not tired of it yet, although the book is looking pretty tired these days. I’m not even bored with Goodnight Moon, but I do have both memorized. I also can recite large portions of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by heart, and if you are under 10, I’ll even sing it.

When I read, I don’t always read exactly what is on the page, so my kids can’t call me on making the story shorter that it is supposed to be, although I don’t try to do that. Some authors write well enough that their words flow off the tongue with ease, and others’ phrasing just isn’t right. I guess that is the writer in me coming out. I also make my kids participate. When we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day you can guess what I had my kids do. That is a lot of words to memorize, but my three-year-old Sarah did pretty well. Some of the best books don’t even have words, like the Carl the Dog books.

When Lydia was really little, we belonged to the Cat in the Hat book club. After several months, I cancelled my subscription, for two reasons. Some of the books were lousy, and as I told the lady with whom I canceled, we have more than 100 children’s books at our house as it is, and I probably should not be acquiring more on a regular basis. As my Mother-in-Law helped me pick up one day, she suggested putting away most of the books and only keeping a few out at a time. I was appalled! I would rather take away all of their toys than all of their books!

I am anxious for my daughters to become old enough to enjoy Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Betsy Tacy books. Unfortunately, I yawn when I read out loud. A lot. I can only imagine how many yawns for each chapter, probably upwards of 50. Even Skippyjon Jones ranks about six. For some reason I do it when I am singing too, but not when I am talking. I try to project, so I can inhale more oxygen, but haven’t had good results, fortunately my kids are patient.

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