I hope everyone reading this has had the opportunity to read to a child. Be you mom, dad, aunt, grandma, sibling or teacher, I have to say, it’s the assignment of a lifetime. There is so much to know and remember.
Location – It must be comfy. I read to my two youngest granddaughters on the big bed in the bedroom/office. I grab a pile of books, plonk them on the bed and spread them out.
“Okay, pick three each,” I say, knowing I’ll probably read more.
Then we arrange the blankets and pillows just so, pick the side of grandma each wants and off we go. This is the nerve wracking part for me as I think of . . .
Tone – Different stories require different tones. For instance, if we’re reading a story starring Elmo the appropriate voice is expected, soprano. If there’s tension building in one of Mercer Meyer’s Critter stories that tension needs to build. There’s a expectation on the part of the listener that must be risen to. Get it right, Grandma, zips through my brain. I’m telling you, it’s a tough gig.
Focus – This is big. While you’re reading you assess your listeners. Take notice of any eye wandering or pinching of a sibling or, worse, going off topic to tell you what the dog did once in a situation similar to the one in the book. This causes all minds to go off topic and throws your timing to the wind - especially if your trying to maintain that soprano voice. The remedy? The story illustrator has worked as hard to get the idea across as the writer, so call attention to the colorful visuals they’ve provided. It enriches the story for everyone and keeps the little ones from going all dog on you.
Wrap Up – Perhaps the most important thing of all. If you’ve read Cinderella more than once your listeners know what’s coming. Two things will happen. Sadness. A good book is over. Time is moving on and that story is in the past. Awww. But wait! Let’s . . . “Read it again! Read it again!” This is what all writers of children’s books long for – that eager response from a child. The second thing is when the child is glancing around for the next book and way past ready to quit the first. Yeah, that happens, too. In that case you should be brisk. Toss book one aside and go on. Just don’t ever tell the writer.
So you see, there’s a heck of a lot more to reading to a child than you ever imagined, right? And if you do this you may be rewarded , as I was over the weekend, with one of your dear ones reading back to you.
Yup, it happened on Skype when eleven-year-old Lillie read to me yet another chapter of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafer. She in Washington and me in New York. It’s especially meaningful because of all our grandchildren Lillie is the only one I was rarely able to read to. She was born far away from me. But I’m so glad her mom, dad, sister, teacher and others read to her so she, in turn, could read to me in her sweet, clipped voice coming through the ether to Grandma’s house. I’m so blessed.
Read to a child. You won’t ever regret it.