Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Re-Reading for the Younger Kids

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.


Lauren said...

Have you written a favorite book list for kids different ages? I'd love to see what your pics would be. I'm always looking for something new or old that I might have missed.

bearing said...

Oh, this is such a struggle for me too. But isn't it fun when you get to go through a favorite a second or third time? I'm starting a new round of E. Nesbit books for my seven year old and it's just great.

Jenny said...

I struggle with the same thing except our readaloud habit was never that strong to begin with.

The older ones got a good dose of nursery rhymes but not that many books. The younger ones are getting almost no nursery rhymes and not that many books.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I think Anthony has got almost no nursery rhymes. The others all seemed to go through a stage where they'd demand them over and over for months on end. He never did and so I forgot.

Recently Sophie, who missed the Little House books when I was reading them to Bella, wanted me to re-read Little House on the Prairie, which in theory I don't mind but it had been less than a year since I read it and I just couldn't make myself do it again so soon. So I bought her the book on cd for her birthday and we're listening to it in the car. Happy compromise for everyone.

So I wonder if a Mother Goose cd might not be in order as well?

mandamum said...

Yeah, we just listened (again) to The Princess and The Goblin on CD in the car. We really enjoy the man who reads that one, and Cherry Jones who reads the Little House series. The reader of Mysterious Benedict Society is great too. Good audio makes such a difference, especially on car speakers :)

Emily J. said...

This is a problem in our house, too. I feel especially sorry for the last baby. I was so much more dedicated to reading aloud with the older group of kids, so the youngers have suffered, and now the new baby will probably never hear some of those classic kids' books. Or accumulate many toys. We downsized our toy collection to the basics after the last move: Legos and Playmobils for the boys; some dolls, stuffed animals, and kitchen stuff for the girls, which I guess is enough for one child.