Isabel (age eight) was having a hard time the other night. She'd taken a spill on her bike and had to have dirt and grit washed out of her scrapes before she could be bandaged up.
"What can I do for my girl?" I asked.
"Read Princess and the Goblin!"
She got out the book and found the chapter two thirds through where we'd left off perhaps six months ago. I read her the chapter, and she curled up happily and listened. The older and younger kids gathered around as well, and what had been a private comfort read became bedtime read alouds -- a ritual which has been all to rare of late since it's light outside until almost 10PM and the kids don't want to come in until it's already after bedtime.
Thinking about it afterwards, I felt guilty. We'd been working very slowly through The Princess and the Goblin for the somewhat selfish reason that I'd already read it (and The Princess and Curdie) to the kids six years ago, when our oldest girls were six and five. It was a great age for reading it to them, but that put Isabel at age two, too young to remember. Now she wants her turn, and I hadn't thought about it because I'd read it to them already.
The same thing struck me the next night when Jack and Diana (ages 5 and 3) were having a hard bed time and Diana begged for me to read her a Mother Goose book which she'd picked off the shelf. The book itself shows the amount of Mother Goose reading that's gone on in the family: the covers are loose and some of the pages are torn or wrinkled, the result of hard use by children on down the line. But that was mostly a long time ago. When the first two kids were aged 2-4, I read them a lot of children's verse and classic picture books at bed time. As they've aged, so have the read alouds. This is particularly the case because, frankly, I'm not as fond of books and stories aimed at very young children as I am at younger ones. The current family read aloud is a Dorothy Sayers murder mystery. The older kids love it, and I enjoy sharing with them a book that I myself enjoy a lot. But while the younger kids can get a surprising amount out of books aimed at an older audience, I realize that my own taste and the fact that I've ready read the two to six year old canon many, many times means that the younger children get a lot less nursery rhymes and Madeline and Babar and Beatrix Potter than the older ones did. Even more left out are children's novels accessible to younger children: Edward Eager, George McDonald, E. Nesbit, E. B. White and such. It's not that I dislike these books. I enjoyed reading them to the kids, but since I've read them to them already, I'd been thinking entirely in terms of moving on to new books.
I can see now that I'm going to have to change this tendency and make sure that the younger kids are getting their fair share of younger-focused read-alouds. I doubt the older kids will mind this particularly either. I go back and re-read my own favorite books moderately often. Re-hearing books that they heard some years back will probably be enjoyable for them, as well as getting the younger children a chance to hear the books they were too young to recall from before.
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