Something amazing happened in our house recently. The challenging process of learning our letters and sounding out each one is long behind us. My youngest child is thirteen, and she’s a strong reader. My other children are twenty and twenty-four. So it’s been quite some time since I read aloud to my children.
Shared Reading Time
As soon as they were strong readers, shared reading time seemed to fade away. But I decided that I would read a classic—Huck Finn in this case, to my daughter over her breakfast. I had several objectives in mind:
- I wanted her to have more exposure to good writing. Yes, yes, don’t we all?
- I also wanted her to be able to recognize the unique language of individual authors; in this case Mark Twain.
- I also wanted to further my own exposure to good writing—in other words, expose myself to some of the classics that had been left out of my own education. (In case you hadn’t yet figured this out, one of the BEST things about homeschooling is that we finally get the wonderful education that we wished we’d had.)
- I wanted some quality time with this daughter. As she has grown more focused and responsible in her schooling, (and there were some years where this possibility was in question) I have had less and less interaction with her, and frankly, I missed her.
- I also love killing two birds with one stone. What a bizarrely graphic metaphor. Seems an odd coupling with something as savory as breakfast. But since eating breakfast happens every day, we might as well accompany it with something valuable. Come hither little birds.
So read I did. And all of those aforementioned objectives were met.
But there was a surprise.
And here’s where the amazing comes in.
The Family Gathers Around
The rest of the family began to gather. One by one, they began to attend our reading—even my husband! One adult child even asked us to hold off on a particular chapter until they could join us (college finals called them away.) It was astounding to me how the act of reading a good book aloud brought people together. Previously, I had thought this was perhaps an antiquated notion, more in line with Little House on the Prairie days when people had no other options, no computer games, no amazing video documentaries, no Legos.
But there we were, gathered round the table, listening, laughing, and even analyzing the reading afterward in a thoughtful way. In fact I’ve come to a conclusion about Huck Finn: it should be read once as a child for the action-drama in it, and then read again as an adult for the amazing interwoven anti-slavery and social commentary in it—stuff most likely lost on a child’s reading.
What an amazing time I had with my family. Good grief! How had I missed this?
So now it is part of the plan. Huck Finn is finished. And we’ve already picked out our next book—Treasure Island.
I have also come to a firm conclusion on just when you should stop reading to your children: when they are eighty.