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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.