“Everyone was anxious to have all his homework done before supper, because then came the most beautiful time of the day, the evenings spent together. A fire was lit in the fireplace. The older girls brought their knitting, the younger ones, their dolls or dwarfies; the boys and their father usually worked on wood, carving or whittling; and I, settling in a most comfortable chair, started to read aloud. It is most amazing how much literature you can cover during the long winter evenings. We read fairy tales and legends, historical novels and biographies, and the works of the great masters of prose and poetry. After having read a couple of hours, I would say: ‘That’s enough for today. Let’s sing now; all right?’”
-Maria Augusta Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers
“My dad read that book to us.” It’s a comment my husband makes often. From the entire series of Little Britches and Little House to Robinson Crusoe and Robin Hood. Almost every one of Gene Stratton Porter’s books and all sorts of missionary biographies. His dad read countless books to them growing up! And my husband still remembers them.
Recently, my mother-in-law and I attended a conference about raising excellent communicators. Mom was afraid she was going to find out she’d done it all wrong; instead we learned that she and my father-in-law had done one of the best things possible to aid their children’s communication skills: they read to them! “Good readers are not necessarily good writers”, Andrew Pudewa asserts: reading aloud is the best way to give children the knowledge needed to write well.
My husband remembers sitting on the floor in the long evenings, drawing or playing with Legos while his mom and sisters did needlework and his dad read to them. For many years, they lived off the power grid, and to conserve their solar power, everyone gathered around a gas-powered lamp in the evening. They weren’t required to sit still—just to be there. And my husband guesses that maybe they listened the better and the longer because they didn’t have to be still the whole time.
It’s a tradition my husband is being faithful to carry on. Even if it’s just a Little Golden Book, he reads the kids something before they go to bed. All three of them pile on his lap, 10-month-old Daniel always anxious to turn the pages for at least five seconds before he’s relegated to the sink for a bath and everyone else can finish story time in peace.
I still dream of our longer winter evenings being filled with nothing but reading. But in the meantime, we’re filling in the rest of the hours with audio books, radio theater, and LibriVox recordings. It’s expanding not only our children’s literary experiences, but ours, as well! Thanks to Loyal Books, we’re finding classic books we can listen to on the evenings Merritt’s too tired to read aloud. Merritt and I just finished listening to To Have and To Hold, and are beginning The Scarlet Pimpernel. We’ve all been enjoying the Anne of Green Gables series again on road trips. And the girls have the Focus on the Family Radio Theater version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe nearly memorized—they listen to it on repeat while they play in their room during the day.
At four and a half years of age, my oldest is still just learning to write her letters. But that doesn’t mean she’s not a writer in the making. Her verbiage constantly surprises us! And after she’s come up to me with yet another sentence utilizing “surely” and “prefer”, I’m usually inspired to turn off the radio and turn on another audio book. Or better yet, if I can, I pull them up next to me on the couch for at least a few minutes of story time. Because truly, what could be more important?
“You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you will never be —
I had a mother who read to me.”
-Strickland W. Gillilan