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November 13, 2020
I love a good book, but I love it even MORE when my family reads a book together. Right now, we’re reading through the Ramona Quimby series. I didn’t think I’d like reading about a little girl’s temper tantrums, but something about how we all now feel like friends with the Quimby family keeps me begging for more. It has me thinking what’s the big deal about reading together - Here’s 3 things I’ve discovered and hope to never lose:
Family Closeness through Shared Experience
One of my favorite things to do is to visit a new place with my family. We are always a little scared to try new things, but doing it together always makes me feel safe and valuable as a member of my family. One time, we stayed on this ranch and they had chickens there. We were invited to gather eggs in the morning from the coop for our breakfast. I’d never done that before, but early the next morning, we pulled on our socks and shoes and walked down the gravel road to the chicken coop. We could hear the soft whining purr that the hens make when greeting you. We looked at each other to see who would reach in first; you could tell we each had to gather courage before we could gather any eggs. After managing to get 8 eggs that morning, we walked together back to our cabin a little taller, a little braver, a little more experienced.
Sharing experiences together in a book will do that, too! Flying with the Darling children into Neverland for the first time, rooting for Wilbur to win at the county fair, bursting through the factory ceiling in a glass elevator with Charlie and Grandpa Joe, feeling the life leave Aslan alongside Susan and Lucy and thinking nothing will ever be good again...as Gladys Hunt puts it in her book Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life (Zondervan Publishing House), “We have gone through emotional crises together as we felt anger, sadness, fear, gladness, and tenderness in the world of the book we were reading.”
Family Closeness Through Shared Language
Ms. Hunt writes “Something happens to us which is better experienced than described - a kind of enlarging of heart - when we encounter passages full of grand language and nobility of thought.” Enlarging of heart: makes me think of the Grinch when he is knocked over by the Who’s Christmas morning song. Maybe a bit of that feeling happens when sharing the language of a good book. It’s the Dr. Seuss rhyming we recall while marching out the door with places to go! It’s in the spoken agreement of how we like going South...It’s like going downhill. It’s in the time when someone asked for a cookie and the reply came back, “Well, if I give you a cookie then, you’re going to want…” Yep. You all said it, didn’t you? And we drink the glass of milk, all feeling that “enlarging of heart” over shared language.
It’s not really the sayings or the vocabulary, either, it’s the knowing each other afterward. Hunt says it this way, “Knowing someone means sharing ideas, growing together. It means not being embarrassed about feelings or being yourself...being taken seriously and being liked for who you really are.”
When I was very little, I couldn’t understand all the words in some of the stories we read together. It was okay, though, because I was included in the sound of my dad or mom’s voice as they read, leading us with courage, ready to confront the Wizard behind the curtain, save Amy when the icy pond cracked, or defend Ferdinand’s wish to smell the flowers.
Family Closeness Through Shared Wisdom
Once, we were reading a shorter, simpler story out loud together...one for “learning how to read” rather than “learning through reading” (we’ll save that for later)...and the story presented a moral issue of killing all the birds that were bothering the farmers. The youngest in the family, who was the one learning how to read by the way, stopped reading and looked in frustration. She exclaimed to the rest of us, “that’s so stupid! If you kill the birds, then all the bugs will come out and eat the garden and then the people will have no food to eat in the winter!” Since she had laid out the entire rest of the story, she wasn’t interested in actually reading it any more. In fact, she felt quite through with reading for the night.
Ms. Hunt puts it this way, “Nothing offends a child more than having to be told when something is mean and base or noble and good.”
When a well-written story is read together, learning wisdom happens naturally. We start to question cruelty against kindness, truth against dishonesty. What should Peter Rabbit have done instead of going to Mr. McGregor’s garden? Why does Harry help Dudley when he doesn’t deserve it? Why does Horton sit and sit and sit on that stupid egg - are promises really that important to keep? No one sets a timer; no one records our speed or reading mistakes; no one cares how many pages we master. There is Goodness to be found! And when we find it, we are warmed by it more deeply than Scrooge on Christmas Day after his repentance.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” When we read good books, we are being made into the people we mean to be. I, for one, am glad we’re doing it together.
Find some really great books to read with your family in our shop, jugheadandbeans.com
See you out there, and remember to have fun!
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