There were certain mother child moments I coveted in those years of trying to have children. Walking hand in hand. Rocking to sleep. Racing into the surf. Finding worms and slugs and ladybugs and beetles. Slow walking from here to there because it was all about the noticing of everything in between. And maybe the most longed for – reading endless stories. Before bedtime. In the shade under a tree. In the ferry line up. Buried under blankets. Sitting next to a crib. On a picnic blanket, after cartwheels and before blueberries.
When my children finally came, two of them at once, these actualized moments were even more sweet and important than imagined. Even fully in the moment, I was aware of time as a fleeting concept and I tried to hang on tight and at the same time just be in the very moments that were so precious.
I feel sad giving up the shared delight of a worm in the dirt. We still walk together but now it is quick and determined. Only when sick or sad, do either of my children need me to be there as they fall asleep.
But, after thirteen years, we have managed to hang on to the read aloud.
Yes, it is different now. It is always changing. You can trace our history through our read aloud stories. From picture books read never enough times. Koala Lou. Jillian Jiggs. Frances and her bread and jam. Hunwick and his egg. Ferdinand and his tree. Chester and his ego. To the pages of longer books. Lulu and her Brontosaurus. Clementine and her little brother with the various vegetable names. James and the Giant Peach. Everything about dragons. Mr. Elivies and his magic shop. The Grace children in the Spiderwick Chronicles. Harry Potter through the ages. Kenneth Oppel‘s Shade and Marina. Childhood perfectly personified in Barbara O’Connor‘s Elvis, Popeye and Owen Jester.
Now we are here.
When I read aloud, we are likely to be sprawled around a room. We don’t fit all snuggled together on one couch anymore. We no longer read no matter what every night at bedtime. But we read regularly. It might be one not so busy evening after dinner. Or on a Sunday afternoon. We still have a book for ferry line ups and for trips to a borrowed house on the ocean where we read gazing out at the water as the ocean meets the sky.
I still read because it pulls us close. There is intimacy in a shared story. My voice fills the quiet as we experience these words together. We still read to find adventures and other worlds. But now I also read to have the conversations they might avoid. For when they tell me, “We know Mom, okay.” To have them hear things they might not listen to otherwise. About the world. About how we are in it. About cruelty and racism and hate. About love and kindness and humility.
I read so that they will hear beautiful, beautiful language. Share, in words, the power of one story. The ugliness of life. Hope. Wisdom. Wonder. I pause and let my chosen silence ask questions. I read and let my voice break. I am not afraid when sadness causes me to stumble through one heartbreaking sentence. I read to be surprised at what makes someone laugh aloud or tear up.
Sometimes, I look up and catch one of my children looking at me. I hold their gaze as I read on and breathe deep.
Some favourite read alouds I have shared with my children in the last few years
Okay for Now written by Gary D. Schmidt
Twerp written by Mark Goldblatt
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.
I needed this reminder. I better find that novel we started last summer. Thanks:)
Happy reading! Enjoy!
I love this insight into your life and those beginning paragraphs were just breath taking. Being a reader has shaped you, your children, and your students and has made you the most exquisite writer. Seriously. Your writing touches my heart every time.
Carrie, what lovely memories this post brings back. My grandchildren are so fortunate to have a mother with a passion to read.
Thank you May! You are inspirational to them too with such a richly literate life.
Kathleen, thank you for these words. Your feedback touches me – every time!
Such a powerful way to connect with older children. These will be memories that your cildren will cherish as they become adults.
I sure hope so. And if they don’t, they are precious memories for me.
I so love that you still read aloud to your teenagers. I really, really wish I would have kept on doing that with my kids.
Now we often do it also as a family read aloud and my husband listens too!
Okay for Now slayed me. I still think about it at random times. Guess what? You know how your twins were born on the same day as my birthday (October 9th)? I’m a twin! My twin brother Matthew lives in California far from me. He doesn’t read and he doesn’t write. We are so different, but our hearts are one. They beat together through thick and through thin. Love this story of your reading life.
Wow. We know other b/g twins in the neighbourhood who are 5 years younger than mine and born October 9th too. Wild. And yes, Okay for Now is beyond incredible.
My son (four years older), then my daughter and I read together until they were about in the middle of high school. My daughter and I read to each other in those last years, and the shared experience is a wonderful memory, shared books and laughter and tears, too. I know that you’ve continued to read together, and what a joy it is. The book list holds some of my favorites, Carrie.
I love how your daughter and you read to each other. How very lovely.
Completely agree –two teens as well. We listen to audio books and read aloud together at home. It is not the same but I still treasure it. We just chose All American Boys as our next read aloud. I love these lines: I read so that they will hear beautiful, beautiful language. Share, in words, the power of one story. The ugliness of life. Hope. Wisdom. Wonder. I pause and let my chosen silence ask questions. I read and let my voice break. I am not afraid when sadness causes me to stumble through one heartbreaking sentence. I read to be surprised at what makes someone laugh aloud or tear up.
This is why we read and live – right? Such a big part of parenting that I think is missing in teens today. Thank you for sharing
All American Boys is an incredible read aloud – we are finishing it today – my children got to hear me swear a lot! Because in everyday life I never swear at all (ha – not true at all unfortunately!) I agree Clare that this is one of the most amazing parts of parenting – sharing these stories.
What a special bond reading aloud to your children creates. This post reminded me of something that I read years ago. A father (a school librarian) read to his daughter 3218 nights, they called it the streak. The daughter wrote a book about the streak. Here’s a link to the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/fashion/21GenB.html?_r=0
Who knows what the future holds because of reading together. 🙂
Yes, I know this story! I included this link in a post on my blog about the importance of reading. I was so inspired by this. With twins, a little more challenging but I sure love our read aloud experiences and that we are still having them!
I just picked up All American Boys. As I read your post it made me wish I had continued to read to my boys as they got older.
Grandchildren Cheriee, putting out the call! Grandchildren!
I LOVE this. Hanging on to those read alouds as long as you possibly can is so important. My son still wanted me to read to him until he started 8th grade. He didn’t ask me to stop, he just stopped asking and I stopped offering. My daughter was in high school and still listened in sometimes.
Those years and years with both my kids offered some of the best snuggly memories. Sounds like you are making the transition to some meaningful YA books. This is awesome!!
We are and this seems to be the ticket for all of us. For my children, because of the subject matter – makes them feel mature and respected. For me, because it allows me to share topics I want them thinking about.
I love this post for the simple reason that it takes me back to those days of reading with my own kids. I think that’s why I love (and miss) doing read-a-louds with my class. We are trying to get through the first Harry Potter book this year, which is disappointing as we’d usually get through 5 or 6 books. Oh, lovely schedules!
Thank you for this beautiful slice! 🙂
Thank you Darin. Harry Potter takes a while! I hope you can find more time to read with your class. Always so precious.
I’m an empty nester and I still read aloud to my kids when they come home to visit or over the phone – it’s just a beautiful and enduring habit.
So wonderful to hear this Tara! Inspiring!
Carrie, I loved the longing and planning and dreaming that filled your first paragraph in this slice – simply magnificent. I also loved your message…shared reading is a point of connection that can’t be duplicated!
Many thanks Lori. That first paragraph has a lot of emotion wrapped up in it for me.
You give me hope! I so love our read aloud time just before bed. The images you shared of reading to your teens as a family connection that bridges time is powerful- and helps me visualize that choice for my own family.
You cannot know how much this means to me. Now, when I read aloud even my husband listens in. It’s wonderful.
Hope. Wisdom. Wonder. Why else do writers write? Simply beautiful…thank you for the words!
Thank you for visiting and reading.