Yesterday I read two-hundred plus pages of a book to my littles. Two of my children practically begged me to continue at the end of each chapter. We have read the entire six-book series and this was the final book-the final 200 pages. While the author’s use of the word “said” caused me to print a list of words to use in its place and post it on my fridge, my children loved the books. They laugh hysterically at the silly parts, they talk about their favorite characters and incorporate them into their creative play, and they have asked more questions about this series than any other we have read so far. The books have caused them to really think about words and ideas and concepts.
As a homeschooling momma I worry a little when I deviate so far from my plan for the day. My schedule allowed for us to read for an hour and do math and science afterward. Then, there I was, four hours later, trying to figure out how the book was over. I am an unschooler, so I do allow for days lost down rabbit-holes, and hours absorbed in an activity that my kids have got lost in, but for some reason the days that I spend reading are the ones that make me most nervous about the plan. But, the thing is? I love these days! When my kids are so into a story that they do not want me to put it down? I am ecstatic! When every night at bedtime they jabber on about what we just read or whine that “that’s not a good stopping place!”? I know that I am growing readers and that makes me so happy.
I remember loving to read when I was small, and then somewhere in high school losing that love. I have had periods in my adult life where I have read every book I can get my hands on, but it hasn’t been until the last few years that I have found the love for reading that I had when I was a child. Now if I find a book I love, I am that girl who will stay up late into the night until I can barely see the pages. I will steal every fifteen minutes of quiet I get to read a few pages of a great story. That word right there, “story”, that’s what I’m after. A book I can get lost in, a story that is more than just imagination, but is imagined so well it becomes real to me. I have read a lot of self-help books, and have struggled to reach the end of their 150 pages, I enjoy biographies and learning about the life someone led, but what I continue to come back to are the stories.
Works of fiction grab hold of my imagination and I become part of the story. I read Anna Karenina a few years ago, all 860 pages of it. Tolstoy’s story was told so well that even when I was struggling through the lulls in the story I could not imagine putting the book aside without knowing what happens to Anna and Vronsky and Levin and Kitty…their lives were wrapped up in my own and I felt I must see if their stories ended happily or not. I’ve read the first two books in The Name of the Wind series and began following the author, Patrick Rothfus, on Faceboook simply so I can know as soon as the final installment of the series is finished. These books were epic stories, I tell you I could feel the wind howling around me as I read under my covers at midnight. Very recently I read the Divergent trilogy-a little late to the party, I know. When I tell you that I sobbed through the second half of the final book, Allegiant, I am not exaggerating at all. I honestly felt that I was losing someone I loved. I could go on and on and on, I simply love a good story!
Yes, I am drawn to fantasy and perhaps dystopian fantasy most of all, but I will read any story that is written well enough to make me feel like I am walking alongside the characters of the book. Which, I suppose is why I will read aloud a children’s book series with roughly over 2400 pages (Land of Stories) or, for that matter, a children’s series with over 4200 pages (Harry Potter) twice. It’s because the books have such well written characters who transport me out my own life into these amazing worlds that I could not even dream up on my own. I get to the end of a great book and feel as though I can’t immediately start a new book because my mind is still wrapped up in the last world I visited. I am almost afraid to leave those characters behind, it is as though I am leaving friends or, in some cases, family if I move onto a new book.
Perhaps I am a bit crazy…but I want that type of relationship with books for my kids. I want them to cry when Dumbledore dies, I want them to feel Lucy’s frustration when her siblings don’t believe that Aslan is guiding them, I want them to be afraid of Smaug just as Thorin’s group of dwarves were! I want them to love beautifully written works of fantasy so that they don’t get too sure of their reality. I always want them to know that these stories are just as real as they would like them to be and that they can go to all of the places of their imagination simply by opening the pages of a book!
As I was reading picture books to my tiny this morning and thinking about the amount of reading that I do, I realized that I probably relearned my love of reading by reading picture books to my little ones. I definitely started reading more during my first pregnancy ten years ago and I’d say that the picture book phase of my kids lives was when I decided I’d pick up some books for myself again. I still read a ton of those stories to my youngest child, but I feel I have honestly ruined my older littles to children’s stories. We first read Harry Potter when they were 7 and 4, before that we read The Chronicles of Narnia. We’ve read the first half of the A Wrinkle in Time series, and more fantastical stories than you’d care to hear about, I say all of this to say that my kids have a heck of a hard time finding reading books that are interesting to them, but are not too intimidating (in length) for them to read to themselves. They will still sit through a few picture books from time to time, but that’s not what they want to read. They want the depth of characters and to become familiar with them. They want something deeper.
I suppose I’m not that worried about spending a day reading to my little people. I feel like the time together, the corners of their imagination that are stimulated, the parts of their minds that are challenged, are worth just as much as a day spent playing math games or figuring out why leaves change color in the Autumn. Possibly much more, as they are becoming creative thinkers, they are learning to analyze and ask deeper questions, they have intense attention spans to things they love. My kids learn about so many of societies ills and are able to process them in the safety of their family, they learn that bullies can be overcome, that while villains are real, good can defeat them. They have also learned the complexity of those evils, that people can be both good and bad. I’m grateful to have the time to read with my kids, to explore all of these realms of imagination together. I will probably read aloud with them long after the point of them needing me to, I simply love to watch them love a story by playing my small part as narrator.
I hope that you can find a book that jump starts or restarts the love of reading in your own soul, or that of your child. When we take back the time for the quiet pursuit of reading, it is untold how much we can gain. Stories have the power to change us, grow us, and help us learn in such a unique way, I’m so grateful for all of you who take a few minutes to read the short ramblings I put down here. I’ll show my true nerdiness now and leave you with this quote from Dumbledore; “Of course this is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”.