Rhythm-ey Rhyme: It's Reading Time!
by Heather Burton
[Note from Rachel: This stream-of-consciousness brilliance from my dear friend Heather was too good to pass up. With her permission, I've adapted a simple email message to her friends for us to enjoy.]
I'm up late working, and I'm tempted by the fact that I'm still signed in to my Yahoo account where I get all my TJEDinAlberta mail, so I'm giving in.
I'd like to tell a story about bringing books and children together:
Several times over the 15-20 years of our homeschooling life (I never know if I should calculate how long we've been doing this from the time our oldest was a wee one, or from the time he would have gone to school) I have gotten dysfunctional about reading time with our children. :) I say it that way because I know, and have been reminded many, many times by personal experience, that reading with, to and alongside our children is probably the best tool in our education basket...yet, I still move away from it. It could have been having a new baby and just being worn to a frazzle. It could have been summertime and we were being barefoot and schedule-less for days or weeks on end, it could have been the times when Dad was a way a lot and wearing all the hats left me exhausted and desperate for quiet solitude, so I'd send everyone to bed and curl up with a book (or a pillow) myself. The most recent bout of "out of the reading habit" has come because I am working, wearing a new hat to pile on the others I already wear, and we just don't seem to follow through from one day to the next with regular reading time. Some days, we read chapter upon chapter, and then it's a week later and we're looking for Roald Dahl's The BFG, or I still haven't started going through the wonderful beginning chapters of Les Miserables like I had happily suggested to a child two weeks ago who is determined to read the unabridged version, and is struggling with the French. An additional factor has seemed to be that of our Core and L of L children, there are just two who can't read independently, and they play together well. Exposing our kids to great works of thought, history, creativity, and so forth is something they can do for themselves, isn't it?!
Well, they can...but this is what happens when we resume a reading-together habit, especially when the books are rich and captivating and delicious, like so many classics are. (Remember: "worth returning to again and again.") We get our family groove back. We all draw back in toward the circle where we feel like we're on the same team, going for a bigger picture, here for one and one for all.
I just don't know how to say it differently and still capture the naturalness of it, the inherent rhythm-y rhyme of a family reading together. It might have to do with proximity. We are actually in each other's company, sometimes squished right up next to each other, without any agenda except communing with a book and with each other. It might have something to do with us putting away the petty grievances we have toward family members in favour of a good story, a good laugh, a good turn of phrase...or all of these. It might be that our memory loves reading time. It's one of the consistent "together" things we have done as parents and children. We have cuddled up next to each other to read since our beginning, even with the babies. Maybe revisiting that setting by allowing a book to draw us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually closer to each other calls up in our minds all the other happy times we've had during family reading. We could maybe say that the current occasion of reading together holds within it some of the lingering fragrance of other stories and other discussions, and we want to savour that smell again. Ahhh. (And somehow, that fragrance dispels the "off smell" of the times when family reading hasn't gone so well. Roses and thorns...you get the picture...:)
Bringing children and parents and books together works. And, in some way or ways, it also works magic. For our family, it does. Now, to remember that when it might seem easier to send each and all to their private places to read and mellow out! Perhaps the better thing for us to do in tense times is to let a book, a read out loud book, draw us back together.
:) Thanks for reading,
[Heather Burton is the founder of The Leadership Association of Family and Friends, and the moderator of the Arbinger Community]