I don’t have many fond memories of my mum, it’s unfortunate but that’s just the way it is. But one memory I do have, in fact all my siblings have, is the time she took to read to us out loud. Our favourites were the Far Away Tree book and the Wishing Chair books by Enid Blyton. She was never embarrassed or restrained and did all the crazy voices and we would crack up laughing at some of them. When we lived with her briefly (my last ditch attempt at trying to help her sort out her life), even though I was in my late twenties and had four kids of my own, I would curl up with the kids and listen to her reading. I loved it.
I read out loud to the girls from the time I was about 6 months pregnant with our eldest. I don’t know if she heard me, and I wasn’t reading anything specific (sometimes pregnancy books, a novel I was reading or even a newspaper or magazine) or any outstanding literature. I felt a little silly at first, but then it just became natural. I remember reading to my bleary eyed 5 week old daughter and her looking at the page and calming as I read. I read to them a lot. So did their father. They would look at books all the time, before they could read, and were always so careful with them. We have rarely had to replace a book…even after 4 babies had read it. Books were always on a shelf low enough that they could reach.
As they got older I shared with them my love of Dr. Suess. They learnt that no one could read “Fox in Socks” the way mum could. I had a knack for tongue twisters and reading it super fast would make them almost wet themselves with laughter (I can still recite almost the entire book from memory).
But as they became independent (and voracious) readers I stopped reading to them.
There were (and still are) times when all of us have a book and are all reading in the same space. Our girls love books and I think reading to them early and often and seeing us always with a book in our hands helped foster that love. But it’s not quite the same as being read to.
So when we got our second hand copy of “Seven Little Australians” the twins asked me to read it to them. An odd request that I hadn’t heard in years. So I said yes.
When I started reading the first chapter, my beautiful twins laid down on my bed to listen. It was the middle of the day and up until this point I had not seen them ever sit still while they were concious. Then all of a sudden my middle child was on the bed. She never lets anyone select her reading for her, so seeing her come in and make herself comfortable to listen was odd. Half a chapter in our eldest appeared (and demanded we start all over as she missed out). Our eldest two can finish a 500 page novel in about 5 hours. What were they doing sitting here listening to a story they would normally consider too baby-ish?
I stumbled over the words at first, not used to reading out loud. I was self concious. As I got further into the book I started to slow down, it wasn’t a race. I didn’t just want to get it over with so they would bugger off. I wanted them to enjoy it. I started adding in voices. They laughed at jokes made in language that I was sure was beyond them. It was a real bonding experience.
I spoke to my mum on the phone later that day. I had been arguing with the girls father about what to send my youngest brother (who is 12) for Christmas. I wanted to send a book and he was adamant that my little punk electronic head brother would never read it. Mum informed me that he read all the time. But even though he watches more television than anything else she still reads to him. He starts highschool in a few weeks, but mum still tucks him into bed each night and reads to him. She told me they were reading The Faraway Tree and for just a few moments I was jealous.