Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reading Your Way to a Great Relationship

We are a reading family. One of the first conversations Matt and I had was about a book. You know when you meet someone there's a bit of awkwardness at first. You ask how they are, they ask what you do, you comment on the weather. Then, if you are kindred spirits, you hit a topic that rings true to both of you and the friendship is begun. For Matt and I it was the Chronicles of Narnia. Actually the conversation started because we ended up in the same vehicle while heading to a church service with a group of friends. The van we were in had a video player and someone had the bright idea to watch the infamous "Find Me a Woman" video. If you have no clue what this video is, well, how do I describe it? Let's just say, it was a home video several friends and I did as a joke for a single friend. Needless to say, I had no desire for someone who didn't really know me well to watch that video. So to distract Matt from the video I asked him if he enjoyed reading. The rest, as they say, is history.

And so we read. Before we had children Matt and I read aloud together. The first book I read aloud to Josiah was "The Two Towers". I was nursing him every 2 - 4 hours and so for something to do I would read. I thought why not read aloud? And so I did, he ate, I read. Micah got to hear the Ben Carson story entitled, "Gifted Hands". I don't suppose there is a child alive who doesn't enjoy being read aloud to. It works out nicely that I enjoy reading aloud. That's one reason I love Summer so much. We get to read. Throughout the school year we read aloud, but we usually only have time for 30 mins to an hour 3 or 4 times a week. In the Summer we can read in the morning and then after lunch and again before bed. So far this Summer we have digested several Hardy Boys Books (I confess, Matt reads these and I pretend to listen. The plot lines are a little too predictable for me. Not to mention, I feel so sorry for poor Chet.)

Stuart Little

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Return of the Indian

The Sign of the Beaver

The Matchlock Gun

Currently we are reading Ben and Me

Various short stories

Various lapbooks

Reading aloud is not only a great way to ignite the flames of learning for your children, it boosts their vocabulary. My favorite benefit from reading aloud though, is the bonding that takes place. In our world it's so easy for families to be disconnected. Each individual is doing their own thing, in their own world. Reading aloud puts you in a room together, most likely cuddled up. You are sharing an experience. And if you choose the right books, you have lots of opportunity for discussion. For instance in The Sign of the Beaver, we talked about being teachable, trustworthy and responsible. We talked about making judgements before really knowing a person or situation. Valuable character lessons and opportunity to transfer your values can come from reading good books.

If you don't believe me on the merits of reading aloud, check out the studies done by Jim Trelease. We don't just read aloud because Mr. Trelease says so, but he does give a lot of evidence for the educational benefits. And so I would encourage you to curl up with your kiddos and a good book. It is another tool to building those strong relationships with them that will pay off now and in years to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I've written, or attempted to write two blogs in the past 4 or 5 weeks. Each time blogger was slow and wouldn't post or I couldn't cut and paste as needed....on and on it goes. So here is try number 3. I really don't have anything too profound to say except that I miss blogging.

I've been inspired of late to blog more about my journey of parenting. I can hear all my single or non-parent readers groaning. I'm sorry in advance and will not be in the least offended if you choose to skip reading any posts that have "mommy content". In fact, I plan to always tag them clearly so that you know which posts to avoid. :) I've done a bit of traveling this year and I've run into a few women out there that feel alone. Don't get me wrong, they are surrounded by people, but it seems not a lot of people are really parenting on purpose these days. I am blessed to have several friends and family members who encourage me on this journey of molding my boys. I gain so much wisdom from other's input. And so for those who are feeling a bit like an island and for my own growth I'm going to address parenting issues more often.

In other news, Matt and I went to see the musical based on the Wizard of Oz entitled "Wicked" last weekend. It was so fascinating. Great music and acting are pretty much expected. And our expectations were met and surpassed. There were a few themes and songs that elicited some lively brain activity for us. I always walk away from something like that thinking, "I wonder what the writer was trying to communicate?" It's so easy to read, watch, or listen through the filter of my worldview. And so I can end up "translating" messages into my language. Or I end up accepting the writers premises without thought. That's why I hesitate to watch anything in passive mode. I want to understand what goes into my brain, because I've learned that what I feed my brain shapes my thinking and my values. For instance, in one scene Elphaba (green witch) meets the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz". As you know, he is far from wonderful. He is a charlatan, to say the least. However, he argues that he is wonderful because people think that he is wonderful. In short, truth and reality are defined by popular opinion. Sounds a bit dicey to me. Elphaba argues, but is eventually drawn by his ideas due to her own longing for other people's approval. In the end, she escapes his influence and goes on to do what she believes is right in spite of other's opinions. I still walk away wondering if the writer sided with Elphaba or The Wizard. Finally, the Wizard is punished, but he is punished by a "leader" whose good reputation and is based on popular opinion and not on reality or truth. So what makes the new leader better than the last? Hmmm? Good question.

So would I go again? Yes I would. Like I said, the music was mostly wonderful, the acting was all wonderful, and the story was so very clever. Just be sure if you do go, do not check your brain at the door. I'd love to hear what you think about it.