Wednesday, November 30

Reading With Children

My mom and I were chatting this morning and after a while she said she had to leave to go listen to some kids read at the elementary school. I think it's cool she does that - she's the perfect "grandmotherly" type to sit and listen, and encourage children to read for pleasure and that wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with reading.

In thinking about my own kids' reading habits (they're grown and gone now) I sometimes believe I never really had to encourage them to read. It just seemd like they naturally read all the time. But in reality, I did encourage them -- Mickey and Gabe read because I read. And because I read with them ... and because we had books around all the time, because our favorite (and cheap) places to go for entertainment were A) the Library and B) the bookstore where we spent hours sitting on the floors, reading, browsing, picking out piles of books to bring home (didn't bring books home from the bookstore that often.)

We read the Jeeves stories out loud to each other, laughing together as we "tried on" the characters' accents. At breakfast for a year, we took turns reading one chapter at a time from Brian Jacque's Redwall books, whose chapters were short enough to be read during a hastily gulped breakfast before school. Those books also gave us a great excuse for putting on many different accents since every character has a unique voice.

Mainly, I think we read alot and had books around alot because we didn't own a television for most of the time Mickey and Gabe were growing up. They used to get a kick out of telling their teachers they didn't have a tv at home (especially when there was a homework assignment that involved watching tv) and they gained a certain notoriety with their school mates for being the only kids who didn't have a tv.

So we were tv-less and book-rich ... until Tim moved up to Helena and became part of our family. He had a, ummm, he had a television. At first, I wouldn't let him bring the tv inside. It was banished to the garage. And of course, the garage was just for storage, so no one ever "watched" it out there ... then, after, oh maybe a year or two, the tv snuck into the house. The excuse was we occasionally wanted to watch a video. Okay okay. But it had to stay in the closet!

Another year goes by and next thing ya know, the tv is out of the closet .... sitting in the living room -- but only under a blanket or other suitable piece of cloth to disguise it and keep it out-of-sight-out-of-mind. . It's funny how sneakily that thing inserted itself into our lives. At least the kids were gone off to college by the time we started using it as an actual .... ohmigod... an actual television.

Eventually the tv won out and I gave in. Tim convinced me that he only wanted to watch PBS and the Jim Leherer News Hour and Bill MoyersNow on Friday nights ... hmmm, gradually it's become more and more a part of our lives. Tim, my incredible cabinet maker husband (I love you, Tim!) has yet to build an "entertainment center" to hide our tv so there it sits in the living room 24/7. Hmmm... at least it's not right smack dab in the center of the room.

Originally uploaded by skuz.

We are still book-rich (that's Gabe's photo of one of his hand-bound books in progress.) Mickey and Gabe still read alot, although maybe not as voraciously as they did growing up. And all of us have benefitted from lives immensely enriched by literature, poetry, non-fiction, periodicals, even (gasp!) newspapers. By writing, too: poems, song lyrics, letters, emails, journals, essays, term papers, musings, grocery lists and notes-to-self. Gabe is binding books and journals these days, teaching others to do the same ... and working on his own book this year.

Today, I realized I missed Children's Book Week, which was November 14 through 20th this year. Even though Book Week is officially over, it's never too late to encourage and inspire yourself and others (especially children) to read, read, read. Books are great - the internet is wonderful too, but in my mind, books are better. Here's a link to a series of educational activities and lesson plans on reading.