I was quite a skilled eavesdropper by the time I was 13. You see, growing up in my house meant that each night before bed a story was told to each child in his or her own bedroom. It was a special time alone for each child with my mother at the helm of a book.
Unbeknownst to my younger brother I used to sit in my bedroom doorway, well before my bedtime, and listen to his stories being read to him by my mom. It was in this doorway that I took my first and only wild ride in a giant, magical peach, and then traveled through a magical wardrobe and was introduced to the White Witch.
Even though sitting in the doorway was magical, I couldn’t wait until it was my turn and my mother would read my story to me. With an open book and a voice as her only tools, my mother would transform my room into Orchard House in Concord, MA during the 1800s and the wonderful attic where my inspiration, Jo March, would write short stories.
Or sometimes we found ourselves deep in the Ozark Mountains where the fate of two Redbone Coonhounds, Old Dan and Little Ann, changed my perspective on reading forever. This was the first time I cried when reading a book.
Little Women and Where the Red Fern Grows are but a small sampling of the journeys my mother and I took together and talked about. She read to me from before I can remember until I was 12 or 13 years old. I know that sounds crazy because what 13-year-old wants anything to do with their parents much less having them sit in their room for an extended period of time reading stories out loud? But, I did.
I didn’t care how old I was when I was running around on the farm with Laura Ingalls, or having adventures with Ratty, Toad and Mole, or reading about Charlotte and her special pig. I looked forward to bedtime and reading with my mother.
These days I have my own family and each night after brushing teeth, each of my boys, Tucker and Max, ages three and one, pick a book off the bookshelf and prepare for a story, each in his own room, each given his own special story time. This is one of my favorite parts of the day.
My boys, snuggled in bed, or on my lap, listening and pointing and asking questions that I never thought they would even be thinking about. It does appear however, that my three-year-old has received my eavesdropping gene as he is often seen slinking around his brother’s bedroom door as I read Max’s tale.
Reading is a wonderful way for me to get to know my children: what they like and dislike, what scares them, and what they are interested in. “I want to do that when I grow up,” said while picture of a fireman. Or, “Mommy, I don’t like this book, let’s read something else,” said when the main character is a monster under the bed.
It’s important to me that we are carrying on a family tradition and having a lot of good conversations and fun together, with books, every night before bed. Even though I am well past the age of being read aloud to, my mother and I still have a wonderful relationship that revolves around the written word. We still share what we are currently reading and recommend or exchange at least one or two books each time we see other.
And I wonder, was I born a reader, or did my mother make me one?