Listening to someone with a talent for it read a short story or a poem is one of my pleasures in life. The inflection of voice trying to characterize someone else's words is interesting and can be mesmerizing.
I think it is because my "Popa" (Dad) read to me from the time I was six months old. No one thought to ask him why he did it.
Was it part of his wind-down process at the end of his work day? Was he giving me a lesson in the English language? Was he trying out the sound of his own poetry? Or was he sharing words that moved him, like "Paul Revere's Ride" by Longfellow?
Popa gifted me with the tale of "Little Orphan Annie," who told scary stories around the kitchen fire of children who didn't mind their parents.
I listened while he described how a German U-Boat was captured by an aircraft carrier during World War II.
He read to me of the Little Prince who left his planet, with its three volcanoes and single preening rose, to visit Earth. From a pilot stranded in the desert, the Prince learned as much about friendship as he taught.
Although others may argue about the Little Prince's genre, Antoine de Saint Exupery's story gets credit as the first science fiction I ever read myself.
Am I the second step in a reading tradition or just the next step?
A fetus' ear is formed during the fifth month of pregnancy, making hearing the first fully functional sense.
The story or poem that an expectant mother (or father) reads aloud or the music that relaxes her emotionally stimulates the baby in the womb.
According to www.expectantmothersguide.com if the song or reading has been repeated often enough, that same pleasure and comfort will happen when the child hears it after birth.
There was music playing throughout my pregnancy but I didn't start reading to my child until after she was born.
Then I read to her more nights than not --
- the biblical story of Esther
- articles on gardening that as a new mother I never found time to pursue in more than dreams
- chapters from "Bringing Out the Giftedness in Your Child" and "The Way They Learn"
- Aesop's fables;
- the whimsical children's poetry of Shel Silverstein, where he adds to the myth of the unicorn:
"And Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was falling
Oh, them silly unicorns"
The antics of Eugene Field's gingham dog and calico cat getting in an "awful spat" made my baby girl giggle.
By two she was falling asleep with books in her bed.
By three she told me the "frumious bandersnatch," depicted in the Jabberwocky picture book illustrated by Graeme Base, "has snot coming out of his nose, so maybe we should go to the store and buy him a tissue."
A whole lot of words grouped together verbalizing the concepts of how we were going to take care of another creature who apparently didn't feel well. See what reading can do!
Whether settling into a comfy reading chair has been long a family tradition or if you want to make it a new one, I wish all parents the experience of hearing your child beg, "Read it again please! You won't? Then I'll read it my own self."
Listening to a child read can be more than just a simple bonding experience. It can boost a child's self esteem.
According to Su Connell director of Rim Country Family Literacy, reading to or listening to a child helps them learn in a gentler way than ‘I am going to teach you abc's.'
There are a few openings left in the next six-week long early literacy class offered by RCFL. It begins Jan. 20. The class is for children from age 2 to pre-school to learn to enjoy reading and how parent(s) can continue to build upon that experience in the home.
Connell's mother was a children's librarian so she grew up reading everything but comic books. "I was envious of friends who could read them," she said.
While Connell said she did not think comic books were a good place to start reading, they do have value. Parents should just use common sense about the ones they let their children read.
To sign up for any of Rim Country Family Literacy's programs call 468-7257.