By Rachel A.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of my mother sitting at the foot of my bed, reading me chapters from a book before I fell asleep. Even when I was a fluent reader, books seemed better when she was reading them -- she used great voices for all the characters!
I try to recreate that atmosphere for my children. We read between two and four picture books a night, and then I read one or two chapters of whatever book I am reading with my older daughters (ages 6 & 8). My youngest (3) tends to fall asleep during the chapter book, but some stories keep her attention, and she doesn't fall asleep until the room grows silent, and I read my own book quietly. I hope this nightly routine will help turn them into avid booklovers.
It is so interesting to be the reader for these nighttime book-fests. My perspective is so different than when I was a kid. Things my mind bleeped right over as a kid jump out at me as an adult. Books I loved as a kid become questionable when I read them to my children. When I talked to my mom about this, I found out she verbally edited the content for several books. I haven't been alert enough to do that. Plus we listen to a LOT of audio books, which limits the opportunities for editing.
The chapter book we finished most recently was "Matilda," by Roald Dahl. I loved this book as a kid, and we read my childhood copy of the book, complete with cover that has been taped on a few times! The sweet, quirky illustrations are the same, and the story is still wonderful.
However, reading "Matilda" as an adult was different. I was horrified by the way her parents treated her, and the school she attended was worse than a nightmare. As a child, I had been thrilled with the idea of being left alone every day by my parents to read and go to the library! In today's world, though, even my kids found the idea rather frightening.
The stories of the Headmaster harming children were horrifying to all of us, so far beyond our frame of reference. Even my homeschooled kids wished they could have a sweet teacher like Miss Honey, though! We were joined in our love of Matilda and our astonishment and excitement at her precocious reading and other skills, and then later her ability to move things with her eyes.
My 3-year-old managed to stay up late enough so she could hear the last couple chapters, as we were all waiting for the happy ending. It does my book-addicted heart good to see them so excited about a story, and so sad when it ends.
Despite the very happy ending, we all finished "Matilda" wishing we could know what happened after the last page. That, at least, was no different from when my mom was reading to me!
Rachel lives with her husband and three daughters in a small house near the New England beach.