Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Number by Reading

Psalm 90:12 says the following:

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."

Here we have a call to not squander the days we've been given. I think about how I use my time a lot, but that doesn't mean I don't waste some of it. But if there's any time I could point to in my 21 years as a parent that I would say I have definitely not squandered, it's the time I spent reading out loud to my kids.
I've read.

and read...

and read...

and read...(Sorry I broke the pattern. I couldn't find a picture of just reading to the 4)

and read. Ask Lou about Mary Grace's bangs.
Looking pretty exhausted in those last couple of pictures. There's a reason for that - I was. And I must admit, I didn't always feel like reading to them. Now, just looking at these pictures, seeing us all snuggled up together, I'm very glad that reading a story and then reading the Bible was our nightly routine. And exhausted or not, we did it. We always ended with the Bible because we wanted them to go to sleep with God's word being the last thing they heard.

I began yawning less during that nightly reading once we passed the days of reading the same favorite books over and over. While those were precious times and I've saved all of their favorites (like Sue Roweton - who has a great blog post over just that subject. Check it out at: Sweet Nostalgia ), I totally prefer where we were in that last picture posted above, and where we are now - reading stories where the kids beg, "Please don't stop! Just one more chapter!"

And because I'm just as in to the story as they are, I usually acquiesce.  Mr. Popper's Penguins, is just one example of the children's books I've come to love. However, I didn't read Mr. Popper's Penguins as a child.  In fact, I'd never heard of it until I started homeschooling and was introduced to Sonlight.
Sonlight is a literature based curriculum, which has, as an integral part of the curriculum, Read-Alouds. Now, of course, a parent knows they should read out loud to their child. And I was doing that. What Sonlight did for me is give me some amazing, quality literature that I'd never heard of. Why I didn't read these stories when I was young, I couldn't tell you. I don't even remember ever hearing of Newbery Medal and Honor books. (Embarrassingly, when I was young, I had heard of Harlequin Romances - definitely not amazing, quality literature.)

A few of our favorites from Sonlight have been:
Johnny Tremain
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Wheel on the School
The Endless Steppe
Cheaper by the Dozen
Man of the Family
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Understood Betsy
Banner in the Sky
Betsy and the Emperor

Some great truths and life lessons are introduced and more easily understood in the context of an engaging story. With the internet, we are also constantly looking up places and ideas mentioned that we aren't sure about. And I cry at the sad parts. I don't know how many times I've read Charlotte's Web.
I know what's going to happen. But the response is always the same when I read the following.
     But as he was being shoved into the crate, he looked up at Charlotte and gave her a wink. She knew he was saying good-bye in the only way he could. And she knew her children were safe.
      "Good-bye!" she whispered. Then she summoned all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him.
      She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.

I cry. And I'm granted the opportunity to begin gently teaching my children about grief before a great grief happens. And that applies to anger, honesty, love, loyalty, bravery, treachery, deceit, etc, that are woven throughout different stories.  Great stories, no matter what age they are written for, summon all the emotions that make us human.

And ones worth reading inspire us to be better people. Even as I type this, I'm wondering why I have stopped reading to the older ones. We all still love a story. We all still need to be inspired to be better people.  I now only consistently read out loud to Mary Grace. In fact, this post was originally supposed to be about the book we just finished, Number the Stars. 

I had made some notes about certain passages in that book that I wanted to expound on here. But once I started writing this post, it kind of took on a life of its own. And, after writing this, and reminding myself of the great benefits of reading out loud to my kids - no matter what age you are or they are - I'm thinking we might just have to start that habit up again.  Not sure what that would look like practically, but I know it would be worth the time and effort to make it happen. I'll let you know if that becomes a reality.

In the mean time, Mary Grace and I will read.  The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is next on our list. I'm sure I'll make notes in its margin also. And I'm sure both Mary Grace and I will say, more than once,  "Just one more chapter."

*In looking for pictures of Lou and me reading to the kids, I found some honorable mentions.
A little blurry, but I love this one

In the Oakland house where we brought 5 out of the 6 home

At YMCA of the Rockies

Hannah - always willing to help

Lou's grandmother and Elizabeth

My mom and Mary Grace

Lou reading to a room full of cousins

Me and Elizabeth


  1. Loved this! Especially the sweet photos of all those tender moments/memories. Proof of my nerdiness is that I read all the Newbery Award Winners when I was in Middle School. For fun. Thanks for the shout out :)

  2. As a soon-to-be mommy...I'm inspried! Thank you for this sweet post:)
    And a side note...the first picture of Lou reading must be in Rochester, MN...that's our old couch:)