Reading Aloud Changes Things

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of moms of younger kids at our parish. It was a delightful morning of sharing, brainstorming ideas, and encouragement. I pray the Holy Spirit moved through our conversations and I hope my family’s story is of help to others. God is good!

We spoke a lot about things like…how do you homeschool when you have a bunch of littles? (like a ninja) How do you keep your sanity and part of “you” as you parent littles (dark chocolate until you wear out your pancreas…if you have other options, let me know) and where do you find titles of good books? (Eureka! I know that one!!)

I honestly don’t have the answers to a lot of questions of young mamas, because I still struggle with the same things as an old mama 🙂 I guess I’m kind of resigned to the fact that these kids need to eat every day…they need clean clothes every day, and the floor gets dirty…every day… and they fight and get their feelings hurt and they hurt my feelings and somehow this all shakes out to getting us to Heaven. This is our sanctification. I’m banking on it. SO, I do not have all of the answers, but I do know having a sense of humor is a must and that His Grace is sufficient for all of our weary hearts.

But Mamas…you have a super power right at your fingertips. It’s called READING ALOUD! This is one of the few things I am certain of…reading aloud is a game changer.

We’ve been “building our family culture around books” for years, way before Sarah and company used that as their tagline for the Read Aloud Revival website.  (Go check it out, my goodness, what an amazing resource.)

As a young mom, I’ll be honest, I was so clueless. I had the cutest, sweetest little red headed, 15-month-apart little bruiser boys ever.

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See?? I told you. And now they are in architecture and grad school. And they have beards. (Hand me a kleenex, sniff) But you know what I did a lot of when they were little? I talked on the phone…that’s the thing that used to be hooked into the wall with a curly cord and you ran around like a dog on the end of a chain, seeing if your kids were in mortal danger while you  went on and on and on about how tired you were and how you need more coffee and you wish Theodore the Tugboat was on twice a day because it’s so cute?? OH boy. What a waste of time, sorry kids. I still think Theodore is one of the best kids shows PBS ever did. Bring it back.

This is the thing…I didn’t know what to DO with them. I fed them, clothed them, cleaned them, but for heaven’s sake, you do that with a dog, and these were KIDS, MY kids. I needed to connect with them more than I did with that blasted phone to my ear. I loved them, I would die for them, but I didn’t know how to “play” with my kids. I mean, Legos? Matchbox cars? Uhhh…..what do you do with that stuff?

Enter….the library. One day, I took my boys to the library, right on the Eastside of Indy, Warren Library, the one I went to as a kid. And I picked out some books. Not great books for the most part, mostly Berenstain Bears, (cringe) and some Lego books, but I did see one that caught my eye. The artwork…it was so different. And I checked out Babushka Baba Yaga. Oh, I wept as I read that book….my little boys sat on my lap and I wept some more and read it again. What sweetness. I have to say, Patricia Pollaco changed my life with that one book. That’s the truth. While reading to my boys that afternoon, and many more after it, we connected. We talked, we laughed, I cried, they looked at me awkwardly (and now are acutely aware that if I pick up one of PP’s books, forget it, I’m a goner) and we repeated this over and over and over. This is not to say that every single time I read, it was angels and choirs singing with my cherubic little boys hanging on to every word. No…often I was sitting in the middle of Lego and Playmobil battles, looking over at my dirty kitchen and piles of laundry, trying not to panic that the place might implode if I didn’t get to those jobs. Sometimes the boys were quiet, often they weren’t…but we read away so many long afternoons, and something happened.

I started to become the mom I wanted to be.

I knew that books told stories and said things I was unsure of how to say, and they organically taught all of us about the virtues I didn’t even know yet that I wanted my kids to espouse. Before I had heard of Charlotte Mason, or thought about homeschooling, I knew that books, good books, were an important part of our lives. They fed me, they fed my kids, and we developed a common language of stories shared.

So, where do you find THOSE kind of books? The ones that don’t pander to your kids, or treat them like they are some wise guy hustling deals in the alley while their dumb parents open another beer?( I can’t stand the trend towards making adults look stupid in kids books, especially the dads.)

Here’s my short list of resources to find great books for your youngins.

Honey For A Child’s Heart–love this one! This isn’t just a list of books, (it does have a great bibliography) but also a beautiful encouragement to bring beauty and Truth into your children’s lives.

The next two books I am linking are written by my friend, Cay Gibson. I’ve know Cay for years online, and one day, need to meet her in person!! She’s written some pretty terrific books about books…I’ve found them most helpful. Go over to her blog at Cajun Cottage and check out “Picture Perfect Childhood” and “Catholic Mosaic.” Those are SO WORTH it. Lots and lots of lists that are by month and Liturgical season. Pure Gold!

Another one of my friends, Maureen Wittman, has gathered loads of titles to teach certain subjects using living books. Yahoo!! For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects with Literature is most helpful.

Two books that I’m making my way through and am so impressed with:

Books That Build Character and The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature. Both of these have great titles that inspire virtue without being a sappy morality play. Kids pick up on that, you know? They sense when things are getting preachy….and thumping them on the head with “you better do it this way, or else, little naughty boy.” I like thought provoking and complex stories, not “Now we will read a book on perseverance for those who can’t do the dishes without whining.”

Just to keep it real, yes, we do have Spot and Curious George books. We have Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. You haven’t lived unless you’ve listened to Nancy Drew audio books. I LOVE those. But that’s another blogpost about audio books. I do make a point of investing in the good stuff for our family library, and some of the other titles I’m not as excited to purchase, (Angelina Ballerina, and Disney princess stuff) they can occasionally check out from the library.

So what are some of your favorite books? I’ll be back soon to shares some of our beloved ones.

Thanks for visiting!

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Yeah…see..it wasn’t always reading quietly on my lap with four boys. Lots of swords…lots.

 

6 thoughts on “Reading Aloud Changes Things

  1. Just when I think I have explored all my options for great literature, I read this. Great article, Diana, and a great reminder to really make more of an effort to read aloud.

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  2. Ahhh, Diana, I believe you just may be my soul- sister! I’ve always been a lover of beautiful children’s books. I think we may have been walking along side one another for many years in the 4-Real Learning forums and other Catholic/mom blogs and didn’t even know it. I’ve been a big fan of Cay for many years as well and have collected many of her (recommended) books. I’m guessing you are very aware of Elizabeth Foss and her many wonderful book recommendations. I’m inspired to go back to that mom, that I was. Over the years, as we’ve added more babies, the hours of sitting on the living room floor reading to my littles has dwindled as well as our trips to the library searching for living books. Life was simpler then. Now we’ve added teenagers to the mix and have they their own set of needs but I still have littles and they NEED the same beautiful stories that their bigger sisters had. Thank you for the inspiration!!! Sorry I missed your talk to the MOYC group. I’m sure it was wonderful!!! God Bless You!!! Paige

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    1. Girl, you and I need to get together! I have met more people in the last few years that were 4 Real mamas…what a special group! I kind of “grew up” with the 4 Real mamas, like I bet you did too! And yes, gosh, our littles DO need those beautiful stories and books. I also think, though, that God fills in the gaps with rich experiences they have with their older sibs….at least I’m counting on it! 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment…I look forward to getting together!

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  3. Hi Diana, I have to thank you for your recent posts. They totally inspired me to start a Well read mom book club here in Indy. We’re off to a good start, and everyone seems to enjoy it. So thank you. Also wanted to invite you to a link up Yarn time on my site thesettingmoon.blogspot.com. It will feature readers’ current knits and reads. Hope you can join in (but totally understand if it doesn’t fit in your schedule). I’d love to see your projects. From Indy :-)), Katie D.

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    1. Hi Katie! So nice to see you here and I’m especially touched that you were inspired to start a Well Read Mom group. Hurray! And good for you carrying on the yarn/book sharing. I will try to participate. Thanks for checking in and let’s keep chatting books and yarn. 😊

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