A long time ago, when we were first married, my husband and I used to love to hang around on a Sunday morning reading the New York Times.
In my memory of those days, it was cold and raining outside, or 20 below, and we had no place in particular to be. I made an extra cup of coffee, maybe we had French toast or a fried egg. The newspaper was spread all over the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom. Reading the Times was a daylong, housewide project involving slippers… and probably pajamas.
In those days we read WHOLE articles! And talked about them! We had long stretches of quiet while we read, and then: “Holy cow!” “I know!” “Oh, that’s disturbing.” “Did you read this?” “Where’s the book review?” etc., etc.
Sometimes we even had full-fledged CONVERSATIONS. Hmmmm.
That was a long time ago. Now we have small children.
They are, of course, beautiful, amazing, funny, busy, messy, noisy, wonderful.
But they certainly do change those rainy Sunday mornings.
For a while after the girls were born, my husband would still occasionally pick up the SundayTimes. So joyfully optimistic of him.
Do you know what is awful? Throwing the whole thing in the recycle bin on Thursday. Intact. Because you never got around to unfolding the thing. Makes me weep just thinking of it.
At CLiF we talk a lot about children reading, but let’s face it, if we are going to be holistic about it, we might as well discuss the whole family. We all know that the literacy of the parents has a direct bearing on the literacy of the child.
But what about the “used to be literate”? I used to know what was going on in the Middle East (as much as any layperson can), I used to think about shifts in culture and politics, I used to know what authors had new groundbreaking books. I even used to get all of John Stewart’s jokes.
What is the impact on my children of losing my grip on all of this?
This Sunday I got the laundry done. I made healthy muffins for preschool snack on Tuesday. I helped my kindergartner finish a color wheel for school, filled out the paperwork for swim lessons, updated my calendar to include the music program at the library, and read a really vapid Strawberry Shortcake sticker/picture book four times. I ate a muffin (Tuesday’s snack) on the way to soccer and picked up groceries on the way home.
In a bid to rejuvenate my former literacy, I have been reading, at bedtime, F. Scott Fitzgerald’sTender is the Night… for the last three months!!!
Do you know what happens when you go from Strawberry Shortcake to Fitzgerald in one day? Your eyes glaze over. You have to read paragraphs three times and you still might not know what the heck old F. Scott is talking about.
Obviously, we can’t blame Fitzgerald for this.
I am hopeful, though. Someday my kids will be able to wipe themselves consistently, pour their own cereal, maybe even read a section of the New York Times! And I might be considered an intelligent, informed adult again, even if I am the only one who thinks of me that way.
In the meantime, I plan to reduce the amount of Strawberry Shortcake I read and increase authors like Patricia Palocco, Robert McCloskey, Shel Silverstein, eventually Madeleine L’Engle, Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, books that bridge the gap between vapid and the Sunday New York Times.
If I can’t be intelligent, informed, and literate, maybe someone around here can.