“want me to read it to you?”

August 19, 2013

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I found the book in a little indie bookstore by the beach when we were in Los Angeles for a long weekend. Super Human looked like something he’d like: heroes, villains, characters with names like Quantum and Paragon. I showed it to him and asked if it looked interesting, but he was sprawled under a display table, deep in a Dungeons & Dragons encyclopedia, and he wasn’t convinced. But mamas sometimes know better, so I bought it anyway.

Back beside the hotel pool, free of too-expensive D & D encyclopedias, he dug in and proved that I know what he likes.

When we got home, I found the next book in the series for him. But he’s the sort of kid who gets sidetracked (League of Legends, a new trampoline, Cleverbot, a favorite 21-year-old brother in town) and didn’t finish it.

Something led him back to the books this week, and he asked me to find the third book in the series. He became entranced again, reading all three of them at once (how does he do that?) and researching the series and the author online. (Chuckling aloud at the “are you the same Michael Carroll?” part of the author page.)

The other day, he told me all about the books, how they’re about ordinary people with extra-ordinary powers. Who fight people with much more advanced powers. Quantum computers are also involved, which pretty much makes the series like candy for a certain type of 11-year-old boy.

“It’s too bad I already read them because you could read one to me.” He paused, thinking.

And then he said, “Want me to read it to you?”

Read it to me? This was new. I suppose that after a lifetime of being read to, and of seeing how my reading draws him into books, he hoped to do the same for me. He wants to bring me into his world.

And so he read to me. For half an hour. We sat side by side on the green couch in our office and I knitted on this. T reads with great inflection and energy and just the right pacing—the result, I’m sure, of the countless audiobooks we’ve listened to over the years. And he does voices, including a scratchy, malevolent one for the guy who runs the work camp.

autumns_end

“It’s so sad,” I said. “Does it get better?”

“I don’t know about that. But it’s the kind of book that makes you want to keep reading.” And then he asked if he could read to me again the next day.

It all comes back to you. I only have one kid that I still get to read to. It’s one of my favorite parts of parenting and I’m doing it for as long as I’m allowed. I’ve done it because I wanted my kids to love books, because I wanted to read books with them, because it’s one time they are happy to listen to me, because it’s intimate act. I never did it in the hope that one day someone would offer to read to me.

It’s one of the marvels of parenting. You don’t do it because there’s something in it for you. But then, along the way, you discover there is.

_ _ _

P.S. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback on my last post. You give me direction, dear readers.

P.P.S. After reading Renee’s compelling post about her new Facebook blog page, and making it work for her, I am newly intrigued with the idea of making my Facebook Wonder Farm page work for me. I’ve always been rather grumbly about Facebook, but I know that lots of readers come my way via the Facebook machine. So I’m planning to show up there more often; if you show up there too, please come join me.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

beth lehman August 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

i read aloud for all the reasons you mention. it is absolutely the best part of being a parent. (and was my favorite part of being a classroom teacher, too!) i never thought of it as intimacy, but i think you are right.

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patricia August 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

“it is absolutely the best part of being a parent.” Amen!

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Kelley August 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Love this. My read aloud time with my kids is so dear to me. I intend to keep reading to them as long as they’ll let me. I just finished “The Reading Promise” by Alice Ozma. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to check it out. I bet you will love it too.

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patricia August 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I hadn’t heard of The Reading Promise, Kelley, but when I went to look it up, I realize that I knew the story from an essay I read (and shared here!) a few years back. I think it was written by Alice’s father. It’s the kind of stuff that gives me goose bumps, especially the part where he reads to her one last time on her first night at college.

I will get my hands on it!

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KC August 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Just today my two year old asked me if she could read her favorite book to me. It was such a pleasant change!
I want to talk to you about helping a child learn to read. I have a voracious book worm of a 4 year old already who want to learn to read on her own but hates to sit and sound out words. I’m not sure where to start. I don’t know that simply falling back on the method I learned in 1st grade is the right idea. Seeing as we are or will be homeschoolers we’ve got the freedom to work outside the box.

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patricia August 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Nothing like being read aloud to by a two-year old, KC!

You are so lucky to have a 4-year-old who wants to read. Learning to read is such a complex process–a hard thing to address in a simple blog comment. So, I’ll just throw out a few ideas off the top of my head.

You write: “I’m not sure where to start. I don’t know that simply falling back on the method I learned in 1st grade is the right idea.” I think you have good instincts there. Parents can do more damage than they intend by pushing the reading process, which can undermine kids’ internal drive to read, and the instincts they naturally develop if they grow up in a home where books and language are valued. It can stop a child from wanting to read at all.

Instead, I’d simply continue enjoying books together. Read complex ones with wonderful language, but also find simple ones that your daughter enjoys hearing again and again, especially those with repetitive, rhythmic language. Doctor Seuss, Brown Bear, Brown Bear…whatever your daughter likes. Those are the ones that kids often memorize–and in the process they develop reading skills. Reading together, and letting your daughter fill in words and lines–if she wants to–can be a good way for her to start recognizing words. Books like You Read to Me and I’ll Read to You are fun for some kids. http://www.maryannhoberman.com/books/youReadToMe.html

I also like Melissa Wiley’s ideas about using easy readers as read-alouds. http://melissawiley.com/blog/2012/10/08/early-readers-as-read-alouds-and-other-book-suggestions-for-three-year-olds/ In other words, as books that you read aloud–not as books that you should press your daughter to read. But if you read them to her, you never know what might happen along the way!

I tried to find a book that I loved for you–but can’t find it! It helped parents understand the skills that good readers use, and they aren’t necessarily the skills we typically learn in school. Skills like using pictures for clues, making guesses at words, skipping hard words, using context, etc. I’m sure there are other sources for this info out there if you look a bit. I suggest this because young readers often develop these skills intuitively if they’re read to a lot, but parents may not recognize them. It would be good to know what you’re looking for, so you can value what your daughter is probably already doing–which is likely to help you refrain from pushing your own 1st grade agenda on her!

If I think of anything else that might be useful, I’ll pass it along, KC. Hope other readers will as well. Keep enjoying books with your girls and all will work out!

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Amy August 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Reading aloud is my favorite part if everyday too! What sweet story of your son sharing his book with you.

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patricia August 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Just want you to know, Amy, that I continue to watch your work from afar and am continually inspired. :-) It’s always nice to see you here.

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julie August 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm

My 6 year old just recently got into Laura Ingalls Wilder (she’s a voracious reader!) and won’t let me read them to her. She insists on reading them to me….like your Super Human, she adds all the different characters’ different voices and description. What a treasure! :)

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patricia August 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

That is a treasure, Julie. Enjoy every minute of it!

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mamaraby August 20, 2013 at 6:39 am

Oh, I remember the time my oldest asked if he could read to me. He was delaying bedtime as much as possible and I had to catch myself because ot was tempting after a long day to ask him to please go to bed. It was so sweet and something he resists quite a bit if I ask him to now. I hope some day he might ask me if he can read to me again.

In the meantime, I’m glad all this reading aloud is making an impact.

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patricia August 20, 2013 at 8:42 am

Ha ha, mamaraby, it’s always amazing what kids will offer to do to delay bedtime, huh?

Reading aloud always makes an impact! :-)

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Rhythm August 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I love this post! Thanks for sharing this lovely moment.

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patricia August 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Wow, Rhythm, this is my first comment from a dog! I’m honored. Thanks for stopping by and sniffing around!

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Emily August 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hi Patricia,

I wanted to thank you for sharing your homeschooling experiences here on your blog! I think it’s so important to give examples of awesome homeschooling families so that others might choose a similar path. For that reason I’ve included Wonder Farm as a blog that I recommend on my website resources page: http://www.livingequalslearning.com/websites-of-interest/#blogs

Emily

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patricia August 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Emily, your blog and your study of alternative education is intriguing. I’m honored to be included on your website, and in such excellent company. Thank you!

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Lisa August 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Hi Patricia,
My 10yo is a voracious reader. In fact, when we got home from the library this week, I only saw her at mealtimes til mid-morning the next day when she’d finished her book. She reads ably without me, and I suppose that’s what many parents and educators aim for.

So some might think she is too old to be read to, but she asked and I gladly delivered. I just started reading her A Wrinkle in Time (mainly because I want to re-read it)! She is so enjoying it, and I feel I am rediscovering treasures from my childhood.

And if we’re talking ‘education,’ she stops me every so often to ask about pronunciation, word meaning, etc. She learns so much from our time reading together. No one is too old to share a good book.

Thanks for your post.
Lisa

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