March 14, 2008

Special Bear and Special Reading

Dear sweet Sirah - she really is a joy in life. Recently just the two of us have begun reading Winnie The Pooh by AA Milne alone. Each night before she goes to bed or in the middle of the day when she needs a snuggle we are reading one chapter at a time and having a grand time of it.

Just tonight we read IN WHICH PIGLET MEETS A HEFFALUMP and she could not stop giggling and smiling. Of course that encouraged me to play up Piglets scared voice more and more which made her laugh more and more. She could almost not stop laughing at the stuttering and confusion over the words he has. It was one of those precious bottle it up memories. She was sitting on my lap in her bed all smiles and giggles.

Sirah loves being read to and is very patient about whatever she listens to but you could tell this was the perfect book for her where she is at right now. She lights up as she listens to the story and it is very hard for her to wait for the next chapter. Tonight while we were reading she liked this picture in particular.

Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne has always held a special place for us and our family. While Disney did a fine adaptation of the stories it just does not have the same classic feel as the book with the black and white simple sketches. A few years ago Serona spent some time traveling back and forth to London where he purchased a very "special" bear for Sirah. To this day she calls him "special bear" and it is her favorite of all her stuffed animals and toys. When Serona travels special bear is always held in her arms when she sleeps. It is very cute and sweet. He told her the bear was similar to the one from the classic pooh stories. It is only now as we read it this time that she similarities between her bear and Christopher Robin's. She sometimes will hold special bear while we read out loud.

There is a sweet precious and indescribable perfection that happens when your child reads a book out loud with you at the precise moment they are ready to really enjoy it. There is this perfect calm and joy and thrill at sharing each moment together. Something so precious about watching those eyes get big and wide and wait in anticipation for what is coming next. Something pure about the laughter that erupts from their belly. Something bittersweet about the tears that start to well up in their eyes as they try to hold back the emotion. I think what is so amazing to experience is the pure emotional reaction the child has to what is being read to them. To watch them experience and feel the things they are hearing, to see it come alive for them and watch them engage with the world they are just discovering for the first time or perhaps revisiting like an old friend. To share that world and story and that precious moment with your child is a memory you want to bottle and take out on rainy days 10, 20, 50 years from now. It is not to be missed and to be treasured when it happens.

Now we read out loud A LOT as a family and as individuals we read a lot (some more than others) and we read all kinds of stories. I would say on average I read out loud 2 hours a day, depending on the school load. About an hour and a half of that is "pleasure reading" not done for school. So some days if I have to read out loud for more than an hour of school reading I can top out at over 3 hours read aloud. Most often i would come in right around 2 hours out loud.

Often for that pleasure reading we read a single book as a family and we take turns at who the book is really "geared for" and all listen together. We have done younger, middle and older books. Right now that book for us is Prince Caspian by CS Lewis. It would be mainly targeted at Ciaran age 7 (almost) who chose it. Sirah has read the book several times on her own and this is probably our third cycle through reading Narnia out loud, seems we come back around every other year to the land of Narnia. Sometimes we read at the dinner table after the meal is finished. Other times all snuggled up on the couch winding down for bed. Sometimes in the middle of the day when we all need a break and some quiet connecting time. Usually we read a chapter a sitting, sometimes more and sometimes less. In general it seems that reading time is a little over a half hour to forty five minutes. Then there are all the storybooks I read aloud to Sirah and Ciaran plus school read alouds.

Recently I felt the pull to take some time to have another "special book" with each child. One that is just to be read aloud by the two of us alone. From time to time we do this. Sometime that book can take us several months to get through because we become busy with other things, sometimes we get so engrossed we move rapidly through it. For the last three days I have read each of them a chapter out loud alone with their special book - it has translated into about 40 minutes per child out loud or about two hours just on that! Then again I have to spend a lot of time laying down these days and reading aloud is one thing that is easy to do that way. Right now Sirah and I are reading Winnie the Pooh as I mentioned.

Rhiannon and I are reading Betsy and Tacy go Downtown. This is one we have been working on for a long time. We started reading the original story in the series two winters ago when Rhia had her tonsils out. This book was started in early fall and has been on our back burner for a few months but she recently wanted to read more out loud and we are nearly finished now. I love these books as they are so sweet and light and easy to read and enjoy together. They offer some Minnesota history and a simple yet engaging story of friendship and growing up.

Ciaran and I are reading A Wrinkle in Time. I will admit some hesitation at reading this book at this age with him but he was insistent and so far is very engaged as he relates to young Charles Wallace. We actually have had some very interesting discussions about his own learning styles and approaches to learning and education that were initiated out of this book. It has also provided a nice discussion point for the way people talk to one another and relate to their family members and friends. He is always surprising me at what he really was ready for that I was hesitant about. As of now I am enjoying it with a hint of guarded optimism. It has been years since I read this book and I am really enjoying reading it with him.

I do love reading out loud to my kids and encouraging them to read on their own. One of the biggest blessings of homeschooling has been the increased amount of time we have available to us to read. Some of our reading time is school subjects to be sure especially as we cover history, science, geography, good literature and some of the arts. Yet so much is just simply because we enjoy it. I think Rhiannon especially would have a difficult time if something caused her schedule to tighten in such a way that she had to drastically reduce her reading time. I can't even keep track of how many hours in a week that girl reads. I simply know we can't keep up!

I know in years to come I will look back at special bear and be thankful for these fond memories of reading these stories to my children and Lord willing one day my grandchildren. These are the stories that carry from one generation to the next as it standing up to 80 plus years of time clearly indicates. Just before I laid down to write this I checked on my children snuggled in their warm beds and I found special bear tucked in Sirah's arm with a copy of Winnie the Pooh open upon her lap where it clearly was as she feel asleep.


  1. Enjoy all these great moments. Before you know it the kids will grow up and move far away to someplace like New York. (I can dream can't I)

    Family Forever

  2. I already read aloud to my kids but this entry has helped me in my current drive to prioritize sports and activities over quiet times at home. There is such a temptation to overschedule kids but you write very well about what we'll miss if we do.

    Angela, a home schooling mom