The Rightness of Reading

Do you read to your little ones? A real book – with paper pages that smudge and yellow, and a bound spine of some sort?

Did your parents or grandparents read to you as a child? Does the pleasure of reading fill you with a state of calm?

Time to read – an actual book – has become something of a luxury in my life, to my dismay. But I’ve made it a point to move reading back up the priority list. Way up, and at night, just before sleeping, to enjoy propping a book on my lap, to dog-ear a particularly memorable page, and rather than write in the margins (I’m of two minds on that one), I jot sticky notes and affix them to important pages or those I’d like to revisit.

The best?

When I’m so caught up in the words – in the characters, the story, the beauty of the language – that making notes is the last thing on my mind. I can’t put the book down, period. And that’s thrilling.

I recall being read to as a very small child, though I was left to reading time at night on my own while still fairly young. That said, I have books from the 1930s and 40s that belonged to my parents, and I love that I can still touch them and marvel at the tinted illustrations, the sense of history in their wear, and the knowledge that these books survive generations.

One I recall with great fondness is Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. And somewhere on a bookshelf in my home is Hitty: Her First 100 Years, which is enchanting.

Books are memories. Books are treasure. Books become a bonding experience between parent and child, and child and imagination. Books – oversize and hefty – were also my first introduction to some of the world’s greatest art.

Not too long ago I came across this article on Time, addressing the need to read to children at bedtime. Not e-books, but actual books. The article cites the feel of the paper, the coziness factor, the ability to interact with pop-ups and their varied materials, and naturally – the shared minutes that are so important in this traditional parenting task.

And some of that time (and discussion) is the laughter that occurs and the infinitely fascinating questions generated by a free and open young mind.

I didn’t receive a Kindle for Christmas (I’m certainly not against it), and I wouldn’t be averse to eventually owning one. But when it comes to the rightness of reading in any form of any sort, I’m in favor of as many options as possible, and the common sense to know when one will bring the added sensual dimensions to a glorious activity.

I love my books books books everywhere! Even more, that from time to time my sons will recommend something they read, and want to share their thoughts on it with me. What’s better than that? Passing on the love of reading?

  • Do you read to your children?
  • Do they sneak their favorite books after lights out?
  • Do you use screens for certain reading and more physical texts for others?
  • Do you have a favorite book or type of book?
  • Is reading a necessity in your life, or has it become another casualty of dwindling free time?



© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. I love to read to my kids and grandkids. It’s amazing as they learn to read and start to pick up your inflections, tone, and ability to bring a story alive. I know that for my kids, our love of reading was very influential in their learning to love books. If the parent has reading materials (books, magazines, and even comic books) around the house and they are often caught reading, there has got be a chance that they will develop that passion too.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      How lovely that you hear them echoing your inflections when they read, Gandalfe. Amazing what pleasure it brings – reading to oneself or aloud.

  2. Funny you should mention this. My daughter just finished the Harry Potter series and while I read a lot of it to her in the beginning, by book 5 or so she started reading it to herself and no longer seemed to want or need me there to help. It felt like a big piece of childhood dropping off before my eyes. Then my son – who gave up having us read to him years ago- was on the airplane with my husband and they started reading Huck Finn out loud to one another and I realized what a gift that was that I didn’t even appreciate at the time.

    Like so many things in parenthood, you think something’s a chore until you’re no longer called upon to do it.

    Delia Lloyd
    http://www.realdelia.com

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I agree (wistfully), Delia. We’re sometimes tired of these rituals at the end of a long day, but they last such a short time really. We miss them when those days are over.

  3. I love it – especially now that I read them chapter books. We just started the second Harry Potter last night. While I sometimes dread it (crazy, huh?), it ALWAYS is my favourite time of the day when I reflect on the day’s events before I fall asleep.

    My 7yo daughter desperately wants to take over reading HP, but this is something I want to keep that I do with her and her twin brother. It’s cozy time, under a blanket my mom knit.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Perhaps soon she’ll read to you, Leanne? I remember when my younger would read to me, how I loved it! (That great caterpillar book… ) :)

  4. Books are treasures, I agree. I have read to my boys since they were in the womb. I loved the interaction we would have as we laughed and shared our thoughts on the stories we read. Both of them remember those times with fondness.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      And hopefully they’ll pass along the tradition, Ayala. I still think receiving books and giving books remains a true joy.

  5. I used to read to my children all the time, other than the obvious benefits of imagination and vocabulary, the slow and relaxed time was also good for easing into sleepy time. For me it was discovering a lot of authors, A.A.Milne, Ezra Jack Keats, and Beatrix Potter, for the first time which was a bonus. One of my kids is a reader, the other not so much.

    Physical books, mostly biographies and non-fiction. A physical book beckons you to read it and if you drop it, it won’t cost $200 to replace. Books are also collectible, the hunt for first editions is something that I enjoy even on a limited budget.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Oh, what a good point about the budgetary aspects, batticus. One of my favorite pastimes when I’m (lucky enough to be) in Paris is to prowl the used book stands. You can pick up something wonderful for a song. And if you drop it? You pick it back up!

      Collecting First Editions must be lovely. (Biographies and non-fiction? Uh-oh. The mention of biographies and book stalls now has me recalling a Sex and the City episode from way back. ;) )

  6. It is a source of pride that my children ask for books more than tv. Mine are still little, and my big girl is just starting to gain independence reading, but I have no intention of stopping our nightly ritual. My parents read to us (in the mornings to help us wake up) well into high school. We shared journeys into middle earth among other places. The written word is delicious, but the oral presentation of a story is a feast. Especially when you find excellent illustrations. I’m convinced that children’s books are a repository for art, a way for new and varied artists to put their art into the world. Just like the stories and the words, all illustrations are not equal. Some are better. But I guess that might be a matter of taste. We have a tradition with passing on A Children’s Garden of Verses. Which is why I have three editions in my house. I loved that you mentioned it!

    And I’m thrilled to have books that were my grandparents, books that still hold a little piece of them, on my shelves. Sadly, I’m moving toward more electronic books. I prefer paper, but shelves are limited, and it’s easy to get something quickly delivered electronically. But I hate not being able to pass my paper books on to a dear friend who might enjoy them. Good books are meant to be shared.

  7. I think I’m now bi-bibliocentric: I love books, treasured reading “real books” to my children and have them stacked all around me… and I love to fall asleep with my kindle in my hands, toggling between several books I’m reading and words with friends, the device glowing gently instead of the reading lamp messing with Andy’s sleep. I particularly liked the hard thick pages of Goodnight Moon perfectly suited to many finger smudged repetitions and the occasional full on chewing by my little ones. Mostly I now miss papyrus and cuneiform, but I’m old school :)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      @Kate – How wonderful that your little ones choose books over TV. And the delight in the illustrations, as you say, is something we forget. That was always part of the pleasure when I was a child, and I’m guessing the same was true for my children.

      @Bruce – bi-bibliocentric – I love it! Yes, I think we have room enough for all sorts of ways to read and enjoy the process.

  8. Had my 5 yr. old niece over to celebrate my 18 yr. old’s birthday this past weekend. I am currently reading Great Expectations from a gigantic volume of Dickens’ work. My niece was fascinated by the enormity of the tome and seemed interested. So, I began reading aloud and she was fascinated! My kids are used to this and, still, once in awhile, we share a piece of the literature they are studying together at school with read-alouds. It is something I cherish and truly believes makes the experience of reading the book that much more special. If you only knew how many times over this school year alone my 14 yr. old, 9th grade son has come to interrupt my sleep after finishing a book that we began together to tell me his thoughts on the endings!

    We are purists, as well. No ereaders yet; however, I’m growing less and less opposed to them. My son is a gadget kid, yet he has said he loves to hold a book. And, this will be a total no-sell to the 18 yr. old who is very classic with both her studying and reading preferences.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Tina – Dickens! Wow! That’s fantastic. My kids still read (paper) books, too, even though they’re pretty attached to their other devices.

  9. We’re a classic book family. There are no e-readers in my home. My Eldest supposedly inherited a kindle from his grandmother on his dad’s side at Christmas but I’m yet to hear about him actually reading on it.

    It’s funny this topic came up because this month I’ve decided to bring back bedtime stories as a priority. Life got so hectic and it fell to the wayside but now in Kindergarten it’s mandatory for Daughter to either read or have a book read to her every day. So that’s helped motivate me. They actually started in November but that was awful timing and I sucked about it.

    Eldest still manages to worm over when I’m going to read the bedtime story which surprised me. He’s an advanced reader and I assumed he’d want to spend the time reading his own stuff but he somehow pops in right as I’m settling in with the littlest ones so I’m guessing he just likes the experience– the cozying and the reading out loud, etc.

    God I love books.

  10. Books! What a waste! Doesn’t anyone memorize anymore? I tell you, everything went downhill after we learned to write.

  11. I love to read to my daughter and love hearing her read to me. Growing up as a child, I recall my fondness for books, the dewey decimal system, and the library. I still can smell the pages of books that stayed on the shelf a little too long.
    We love showing our daughter that reading isn’t just a hobby, but a way of life.

  12. When I was taking graduate courses, I had much to read for homework and so fell out of the habit of going to the library for pleasure. I’ve been delighted to have a branch nearby since moving away from campus — essential for stocking my nightstand with bedtime treats.

    Recently, friends of ours had a baby. They registered for many things on a few websites, but among the washcloths and changing pads and teething toys were favorite children’s books. I’m sure you can guess what we sent as a gift :)

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