“Mommy, can we PLEASE read tonight?” Before dinner is even over, this familiar plea is issued by one of our three children. This last school year we began reading a chapter book aloud together as a family. We had heard of other families doing this and always wanted to, but it was difficult finding material suitable for all ages. Our two-year old barely sat for books with pictures on every page, but pick a novel, even a children’s book with far fewer pictures and it became a chore. We struggled through Charlotte’s Web, Winnie the Pooh, and Stuart Little. It definitely wasn’t time wasted as we had never read A. A. Milne before and our oldest was certainly engrossed in the stories, but this year, we were engrossed as a family.
After much discussion between my husband and I, we decided on beginning the Little House series. My husband’s only impression of Little House was the TV series he was forced to sit through as a child when his sister insisted on watching it. We both were a little concerned that it was too “girly” for our boys and perhaps wouldn’t capture their attention and our daughter, aged 3, was too young to care. It was with trepidation that we began it and we fell in love. All of us. My youngest may stop and interrupt every other sentence to ask for clarification or to point something out, but she is listening. She still remembers that in the second book Jack, the Ingalls’ dog was lost when they crossed the river but he found his way back to their family. She is making connections and in some mysterious way, that scene is memorable for her. My younger son, age 5, may look like he is not listening, but when he asks questions, it is clear that he is constructing a picture in his mind, his own picture of the prairie, a place he’s never seen. My oldest at 7, can read now and he sits beside me and follows along. When I stop to answer a question, his little finger points out the exact word where I left off. My husband and I are awed reading about life on the prairie. Every morsel of food, every stitch of clothing, the chairs, everything they used or touched was the product of what we would consider physical labor. My seemingly incessant trips to the grocery store have taken on new meaning for me as I am realizing anew the contrasts between “then” and now.
Reading together as a family on a regular basis has created an oasis for us. It’s almost sacred, our time together huddled on the sofa dirty with crumbs and fingerprints, sharing the story from a book bearing a slightly musty odor and sporting a well-loved cover. And, it’s magical