Friday, January 30, 2015

How Our Family Reads Together

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Ever since I can remember, we've had a literary half-hour after lunch. It's a sacred spot, and nothing but visitors, one of us being gone, or sickness interrupts it. Then (except in the case of visitors) it gets turned into a movie.

Close enough. ;)

When we were wee things, we started out with selections from the Miller family short stories. The books were written to build character qualities and explain Scripture verses to young children. Whenever we read School Days With the Millers, we'd always say "Nooo, not that one!" Because one particular story was very sad, and it made our mom cry. We didn't like crying over things back then.

When I was a little older our dad started reading to us in the evenings--we each got a half hour--and we double-dipped. I'm not sure if my brother stuck around for Elsie Dinsmore, but most evenings I would find another book when my chapter was done, and pretend to read while I listened to G.A. Henty. (That was The Age of Competition. I could never have admitted my interest openly.) And there were tons of beautiful moments, fending off unwanted suitors and killing enemies and raising families and aspiring to manhood. My dad read me the girl's books, and my brother the boy's books, and I think it shaped both of us into the people we are today. :) We probably read over forty books between the two of us, those two years we did it steadily. But we stopped evening reading about the middle of the Mildred Keith series. Highschool picked up steam, and it was harder to fit in. I've still never finished that series. They are sacred with memories. But someday I'll pick them up and find out what happens to her.

It was during the half-hour after lunch with our mom that I learned to love L.M. Montgomery. I fell wildly in love with Jane of Lantern Hill the week my mom had a cold and couldn't talk. My brother and I took turns reading it out loud together, and Jane was, and still is, a deeply passionate girlhood treasure of mine. I always was a bit of a daddy's girl, and I could relate to that in Jane. We read girls' books and boys' books, adventure, history, and science--everything under the sun. We even made it through Jules Verne's Mysterious Island together--including the loooong passages with all the explanations of how to make dynamite--and cheered when we got to the pirates and went into fits over how terrible the movie was compared to the book. Through those years I learned to love reading aloud so much that I went and recorded a book on the computer.

Junior B. joined us as soon as she had grown out of picture books, and became part of our tradition. It wasn't always easy choosing books that seven and twelve and fourteen year olds would all like at the same time. But we managed, and the tough days don't last forever. Carrie-Grace joined the lunchtime squabbles between Collin and I over whether or not romance was worthwhile, and we debated whether Marcus was better than Caleb while consuming countless batches of cookies.

After a while we read too fast for our parents to keep up anymore, and they turned us loose in the world of literature. I'm sure it's a scary thing for a parent to let a child go when they can't preview everything. But our parents wanted us to learn to think for ourselves and judge with discernment, and I think that's one of the biggest gifts they've given to us. We're all three opinionated, and spend as much time dissecting a book as reading it--but we have a deep love for reading. Though it manifests itself quite differently in all three of us, I think we gained our value of books from the daily reading time that we still guard with jealous love. All these years later we still remember favorite childhood stories, and quote Sherlock Holmes when we're hiking in the wilds of northern Michigan, and groan over Economics in One Lesson whenever someone mentions the title.

Our reading half-hour has shifted somewhat over the years. Now, instead of our mom picking and reading all the books, we each take turns. Our interests have grown. My brother has a job and can't join us anymore, so we incorporate a little more Jane Austen than we used to. ;) In the last year we've run the gamut from Martin Chuzzlewit to Winnie the Pooh. We also discovered a thick biography on John and Louisa Adams, which sparked a few discussions on the importance of diplomacy. In essence, we have our own private adult reading club, and it is great fun.

Parents have a huge impact on the values of their children, and our dad and our mom both worked hard to instill the value of good reading in us. I think the biggest tool you can use to shape your child's values is that of reading aloud. You have great power to train them to love good and hate evil simply by choosing the right stories. Sometimes you don't even have to explain it; you can just let the characters speak for themselves.

Not only does reading instill good values, but it gives the twin gifts of imagination and communication. Reading opens a whole new world of wonder and love, and it's a training ground for launching young adults off on their own. All three of us are huge communicators, all three of us love to write, and we all think too much for our own good. :) And that I credit to the long, hand-written lists of books that our mother has recorded over the years.

Through reading aloud, we have learned to hate the evil and choose the good, as well as gaining a host of childhood friends. For me, that gift was huge.

And someday, I will pass it on.

Blessings,
Schuyler

16 comments:

  1. This was a great looking-back-and-remembering post. :) Thank you for putting it down into words. It certainly has been an adventure. I learned how to edit as I was reading (there were a couple of books that required more than I expected, and I debated about whether or not to continue, but I soldiered on...). Economics was pretty dry, wasn't it? But you should give it another go someday. Then you'll understand why all the books and discussions of economics today are based on the premise, "What Happens When We Choose to Ignore That One Lesson."

    I'm so glad we've been able to read together for as long as we can, and for however much longer we have to do it. It's been such a great blessing!!

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    1. I watched you edit books and taught myself some of the same skills. It is really good to master 'split-screen' reading. ;) --reading one page out loud and skimming the one that's coming up. You were great at that.

      Oh, Economics may have been dry--but I still remember the one lesson!

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  2. It was wonderful to read about your journey through reading! It reminds me a lot of all our read-aloud adventures when I was young. We did read-alouds as long as I can remember, but what I remember the most was when I was six or seven and my dad took up reading LotR to us. He did it with different voices and made it so wonderful. Also in later years he read aloud Karl May's westerns to us. I always anticipated every evening when we would be swept away to the American west and ride with Indians and hunt outlaws. Unfortunately now that both my siblings are in college and have jobs we don't do read-alouds anymore, but the ones that we did do have inspired me to read and have adventures on my own, and also to write and create my own adventures.
    And I do agree entirely that parents need to pass down the gift of reading, because it is one of the best gifts ever. It can open doors and lead to wonderful things.

    ~Victoria

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    1. That sounds so fun. Did your dad read the dwarvish and elvish poems too?! I was on to LOTR by myself when I got to it, and introduced the family to Tolkien. :) It sounds like you had a lot of sweet family times together....

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  3. I loved this post! :) It's like a little bit of history...'cause I came along a bit later. :D I remember those looooong naps while you all were having adventures. :P And then we all started reading together and I think our mom had to figure out what would be an age appropriate book that would fit all of us. :D

    I think that even if you're not a reader, it's good to read to your kids, because it will turn them into readers. Seeing a parent read makes a great impact on the child.

    There have been so many gems we've found over the years. :D And here's to finding many more!

    Love,
    Carrie-Grace

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    1. The age-appropriate was challenging sometimes, but we made it. And I'm so glad you joined us! You introduced us to Sam Campbell, which we have heartily enjoyed every time we read one of his stories.

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  4. I really enjoyed this post and remember well all the books. I remember the night we just had to keep reading until we could get to a point of resolution. We read a lot of pages that night. I also remember you sitting beside me to follow along as I read. Occasionally I would skip a paragraph or change something to see if you were reading ahead. You always caught me.

    Thanks for the memories.

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    1. And I still cried, after that long night of reading....happy memories. I remember reading ahead and you always caught me, too. :) And bending up all those bookmarks....

      Thanks for sharing! I will always remember our reading together.

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  5. Fun post! Sounds similar to our family. ;-)
    I have to know, though, which story in the School Days book you didn't want your mom to read! We have that book and I'm trying to figure out which one it is. (It doesn't help that I can't remember much about it, haha).
    Read aloud is still a favorite activity every day. I learned so much by digging into these wonderful books. I had no idea how much I would adore Jules Verne (even though he does get rather VERBOSE in his descriptions!) Michael Strogoff is one of my absolute favorites of his.

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    1. In School Days it was the story of Marie, when she died. That was so tragic.

      We read Michael Strogoff last year, and enjoyed it as well! I would come to an abrupt halt at the Russian names, and skip a paragraph or two until I could pronounce the words again. Carrie-Grace would always tease and say "I want to know what those places are!" :)

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  6. Yes! I had such a rough time reading those names. Many books are difficult like that. We just plod on through. Now I sit with the dictionary and such on my phone by me so I can look things up! (Michael Strogoff had the BEST ending ever. Except for Nicolas P.; I cried trying to read that.) :-(

    Just went to look up the story with Marie...I can't find my book! It's not with the four other Miller books. Now I'm wondering if I ever had that one. Or maybe I gave it away. I don't know!

    I just realized that without some sleuthing, you don't know who is posting these comments! I'm sorry!

    ~ Mrs. Jachim (now you know!) ;-)

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    1. Hi Mrs. Jachim!
      My mom would look up things as I read it and show it to us afterwards! Yes, Nicholas was so sad. :( I only skimmed that part reading through it out loud, but he was such a cheerful, brave fellow.

      I must confess I did some sleuthing yesterday and saw your blog. Thanks so much for commenting; I enjoyed having you stop by! :)

      ~Schuyler

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  7. It was so lovely reading about your reading experience as a family, Schuyler! Thank you for sharing :). I have to say I am a wee bit jealous of the fact that your parents used to read quality fiction together with you and your siblings. How special that must have been! I can see how wonderful a literary experience that must have been for you and your brother and sister. Aw, that is sweet how you used to swap stories, and increased your reading scope when you were young, and then when your little sister started growing up, you catered for her age as well. I am sure such times, besides training and wetting your literary appetites, also helped you bond together and created neat memories between you all as a family.

    I know that it did with us!

    For while my parents never read aloud fiction to us growing up, we *did* have a reading time together as a family, usually after lunch or dinner (and after the dishes had been scrubbed and dried!). Dad built a tradition in our family since we were very little of reading aloud biographies of Christians, some of the most beautiful classic autobiographies as well as less known stories about God's people. It was wonderful! Dad has always been such a great storyteller and whenever he read to us, the stories would always come alive through his wonderful narration. We read countless stories together over the years, like "The Hiding Place" "God's Smuggler" "The Happiest People on Earth" "The Secret Believers" "Selected to Live" "L'Abri" "The Torn Veil" 'I Dared to Call Him Father" "Siberian Miracle" "Through the Gates of Splendour" "Tramp for the Lord" "Children of the Storm" "Faith Like Potatoes" "Appointment in Jerusalem" "The Shaping of a Christian Family" "Visions Beyond the Veil" "Divine Healing: The Way of It", "Bold as a Lamb" "The Heavenly Man" "Gladys Aylward: A London Sparrow", "The Cross and the Switchblade", as well as biographies about Henry Martin, David Brainard, Jonathan Edwards, Hudson Taylor, George Muller, etc! I have such special memories of those times, and our time spent hearing about Godly men and women of the past inspired me to walk closer and more passionately for the Lord, as well as exciting in me the idea of the joy of stories and heroes and history; my love of fiction was a very personal thing, but I think that early seed of Dad reading Christian biographies and autobiographies to us created something in my love of stories - a spark or a higher standard, if you will, through true stories that excites me to tell through the medium of storytelling and fiction now. It was a great blessing!

    Alas, in the last couple of years, my two older sisters have become very busy with university-studies, and high-school for me is very demanding as well, so we've halted this tradition, more or less. Also, Dad these days is very busy at work; but Sarah has continued the tradition of reading to our youngest sister Gracie these stories, as well as a dose of good wholesome fiction, and Dad tells her exciting bedtime stories he makes up, which I think is so sweet. Now I read all the books by myself, and so that sometimes can be a little sad when everyone is so busy!

    Thankfully, Dad is a deep reader still (mostly of theology/Christian life and philosophy, atm). And Sarah has got all the history down pat. So I just try to keep the fiction thriving in the family ^_^

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    1. I so enjoyed your family memories, Joy. Thank-you for sharing them. Your dad is a reader I would love to talk to. He sounds like he would have a lot of wise and thoughtful recommendations. :)

      Family is all about keeping each other balanced, isn't it? Fiction or nonfiction. :)

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  8. This was a lovely post and it brought back many fond childhood memories for me, as well. My dad read out loud to us every night before bed, and it was through his voice that I fell in love with books (particularly fantasy and anything adventuresome). Even though I'm in my 30s (ah!) whenever I go home, my Daddy can still be convinced to read out loud to us. My favorite thing in the world now is to listen to him read to my kids. Reading out loud is so important, for so many reasons.

    Thanks for this post!

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    1. Aw, that's so sweet! :) I think one of the things I'm most looking forward to about having kids of my own someday is having my parents read to them when they visit. ;)

      ~Schuyler

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