Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the Backseat # 6 A Key


I decided to turn off the T.V*. about a year ago for my kids. With much remorse, I even gave up our popcorn, cheese and apple lunch on Fridays in front of “Little Einsteins” and “Charlie and Lola” with hopes of increasing the “I love books” quotient in our home. The result? Julia has faired better than Brighton. She will sit and listen until I grow hoarse from reading. Brighton? Well, let’s just say his ears are still in training. He’s one that will get on eye level with the edge of the right hand side of the book to gauge how many pages are left. He has found books more useful for things like holding his Hot Wheels track at an incline or being a foundation for building "New York City" or the "Texas Rangers Stadium" out of dominoes or for securing forts made of blankets. However, he is beginning to request his favorites and his book list happens to be growing. For this I am thankful because I can recite “Curious George Gets a Medal” (or “Goes Camping”, “Makes a Pizza”, “Goes to the Airport”) in my sleep. I bet he can too.

Almost everyday, we all pick some books off of the shelf for our own little story time. Julia is always in for the long haul contentedly melting into my side and never fails to ask for “one more”. B is good for as long as his goldfish last and sometimes longer depending on what we are reading. (At times, I have even resorted to suckers. Starburst suckers last the longest.) Even if he doesn't last long, he still loves the thought of it. Because of Julia’s enthusiasm for books, I was so excited when she began learning to read. I kept thinking about how great it was going to be for her to pick a book up that we brought home from the library and not have to wait, impatiently, for me to read it to her. As we rounded the half way mark into the school year, I knew she could read but I wasn’t seeing the reward of her pursuing it. As her mother, I was confused, but as her teacher, I was irritated. Thankfully, I knew not to push it, so I waited.

A month or so ago, we just happened to hit a garage sale of a former elementary school teacher who was selling most of her books. For me, it was better than being at a serious clearance sale at Half Price Books. I picked up some early readers that were on our first grade reading list and had Julia carry them to the car. As I watched her in the rear view mirror, I noticed she was flipping through them looking at the pictures - early readers are not known for Caldecott worthy illustrations- so I said, “Hey, pumpkin, you can READ those books. That is why I bought them because I knew you could.” “No, that’s okay. I just want to look at the pictures.” Mother. Teacher. Confusion. Irritation. Then a story I had read zipped through my mind and I thought, it was worth a shot. So making as much eye contact as I could with her driving through Tanglewood I said, “Hey, Julia, I just want you to know that I love to read to you and that we will always snuggle up on the couch and read books together even when you read as well as I do. It is just something our family is going to do. You know, we will even read together until you get married and move away if you want to.” Her eyes never left the rear view mirror. Her face was content but she still had a question waiting. “Well, Mommy, what about when I have children and come home for a visit? Will you read to me then?” I don’t have to tell you what I said but I dream of the day when I get to read some of these same books to my grandchildren and have my daughter listen in and remember. Well, that day, she read two books before we got home and, now, a couple of months later, we don’t have a book at home on her level that she hasn’t read… a few times.

The story that came to mind was from a book in which the author explained how she pretended forever that she could not read because it was the only time during her young life that she had her mother all to herself, physically close to her, so close that she could smell the cold cream on her face. This was something she was not willing to give up, so she pretended she could not read. I don’t know for sure if this was a fear of Julia’s that I needed to expose and chase away, but a key fit the lock somewhere in our conversation. I underestimate the value and necessity of closeness and physical touch with my kids. This revelation from the backseat is in big bold letters for me and won’t soon be forgotten.


*Turning off the T.V.-- I had to do it for a while to break the habit. I definitely replaced it with more reading time together and they figured out fun things to do with each other. Once they went a couple months without even asking for it, we decided to make watching a very special treat and something we did WITH them, for the most part. Sometimes it is inevitable and the best choice for certain situations.

12 comments:

tanya said...

Krista,
This post did me in. I'm fighting back the tears and the tears are winning. Makes me want to crawl on the couch and snuggle with my Mom! Julia and Brighton are blessed to have you!

"Bluebonnet in the snow" said...

I agree with Tanya! We serve such an awesome God who put that story in your path and allowed you to recall it at just the right moment!

nikki said...

so sweet...this is a great lesson- so glad i can learn it too (from you!) who's that darling baby sitting next to juila on the couch???

TJ Wilson said...

Lovely lovely, K. Fabulous that you're getting all this down in words for them to read one day.

spaghettipie said...

I loved your thoughts and thanks for sharing that story. I never would have thought about that, but now that you share it, it makes a lot of sense.

Lesli said...

Julia and Brighton remind me alot of my kids. My 5 yr old daughter has always been a reader. Loves, loves storytime. She especially loves reading chapter books with me. We are currently working on the American Girl series. She listens so well, doesn't even need pictures. Then there's my 3 1/2 yr old son who loves to talk through the whole book and can't sit still for more than 60 secs at a time. His favorite books are the No David series if that's any indication...LOL Great story, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Krista -it's Priscilla -- Brighton's friend from the crawler room @ Wee Care CCBC... I love catching up with your blog!! Your pictures from your vacation to Florida were so beautiful, by the way...

I have no sweeter memories of my children's childhoods than the hours, dare I say days, or days upon days, of reading to them, reading with them, having them read to me,... and, yes, even having them read to their younger siblings..

From the first Little Golden Books, to Little Critter and Richard Scarry books, Margaret Wise Brown, Tasha Tudor, Robert McCloskey, Eloise Wilkins, Curious George, the Berenstein Bears, The Billy & Blaze series (Billy & Blaze was the first book my oldest, now 27 and with her own toddler, read out loud to me), and many, many others... on to The Secret Garden, The Little Princess (w/my daughter & me both crying as I read these) The Wizard of Oz, The Whipping Boy (I LOVED this book... it's a great children's book & it really helped me to talk to the children about how Christ is, in essence our "whipping boy", The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (my favorite as a girl), and many, many other books, with the last that I can remember reading to my daughter being "Little Women". [I would be underlining these books, as is proper, but I STILL don't know how to underline on a computer!! :) ] I wish I could say that we continued this tradition, but it tapered off as they entered the middle (school) years...

I homeschooled my oldest until 5th grade, and my son was home-schooled for 1st, 5th and 6th grades... I struggled with confidence in my abilities and in my calling to this and with whether I was doing a service or an injustice to my children in most areas as I often felt very inadequate... But reading was the one area where I felt like the kids (and I as well) really thrived... my motto seemed to be "when in doubt, read"...

I have a friend who homeschooled all five of her children (now ages almost 30 to age 15), and who has spent the years since writing curriculum as well as speaking to and counseling a new generation of home-schoolers in the East Texas area (where we lived at the time), who told me early on that the most important tool as a home school mom that I could give my young children was a good foundation in and love for reading...

And oh how sweet to think that you and Julia might still be reading together until she grows up and gets married!! I have another friend, a pastor's wife here in the metroplex, who although she didn't homeschool, read aloud to her whole family every night throughout at least their middle school years, if not longer... I know they read through much of the great literature together...

You know, my son, James,also often had other uses for books when he was little, as Brighton does, but who knows what seeds are being planted in Brighton's head... someday he might design the next great bridge or highway, or invent a great machine... James started reading pretty late, at age 7, and didn't really care for fiction or novels until he was much older, and often didn't seem to be paying attention as I read to him... but, once he got hooked on the right kind of books, that being any thing having to do with science, nothing could STOP him from reading... He would read through whole books (I'm talking the genus, species, phyllo[is that what it's called??] type... Now, as a 25 year old graduate student in organic chemistry at the Univ. of Texas he is preparing to go before a committee in the spring in hopes of moving to the next level, that being a Ph.D. doctural candidate... This from the boy who COULDN'T sit still to read or be read to... I'm talking about until he was about 13 or 14!!

A great series for him was "The Great Brain" books @ a boy who is always thinking of clever schemes (nothing sinister, mind you) and ploys to entertain himself in his quite dull days of living in the town of Salt Lake City in its early days... My friend, Anne, the pastor's wife mentioned above, told me about this series...

Lastly, I have saved most all of the books from our children's "library"... Our kids have always accused me of being too sentimental, and they're right... but, now they think it's pretty neat that I've held onto these tresures and that I (or they) will be reading them to a new generation in the years to come... I'm also adding to our "inventory"... buying every classic children's book, Little Golden Book, and Caldecott award winner (at least the ones that have great stories to go along with the great illustrations) that I can afford to get my hands on... And now that our 17 month old granddaughter, Amelia, "Millie" is in our lives, I'm preparing a reading corner in our bedroom, complete with two child's heighth bookshelves, a stepstool, and two childsized rocking chairs (that I bought at Mudpuppy :> ) along with the collections of books, both new/used and new/old so that they can "read" or pick out a book to be read to... I, like you, hope that this is a tradition that will be passed on to the next generation, and in turn will become a sweet memory for my children and childrens' children.

Thanks for letting me "crash" in on your blog from time to time, and thanks if you take time to read this...

I'm going to go back to your old posts now before I go to bed and see if I can find that list you had of yours and your children's favorite children's books...

One last thing, I'm sure you know about "Honey for a Child's Heart" -a book that lists great books for kids... there is also "Books Children Love" by Susan Schaeffer MaCauley (I think that's the spelling)... She's the daughter of Francis Schaeffer...You've probably heard of it... I was always using one or the other or both of these books as a reference for good, "safe", moral books for my kids...

Take care,

Love,

Priscilla Roberts

The Mitchell Family said...

Krista, Hi, this is Grace! Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog when I get a few moments. Hearing from such a sweet Mom is so encouraging to me! Love, Grace

Elaine said...

Hi Krista. I'm impressed that y'all have totally quit TV. I wish I had more willpower to really lay down the law on that. We still do Saturday mornings and then times when I'm too frazzled to do otherwise. However, we are loving reading a lot. Meredith did the same thing on reading books to herself. It has just been in the past couple weeks that something clicked and she started reading on her own. She loved Daniel's Duck and Billy & Blaze. I love your blog! See you soon. Elaine

Krista said...

t and bits- I can't believe God gave them to me sometimes.
nik- I think it is one of those cute anderson kids??
noisy friend and pasta girl- always glad you "writers" read me
lesli and priscilla- thanks for encouraging me to keep reading (and for a longer book list!)
grace- hi!! Thanks for reading - saw a beautiful picture of you on Sara's photography site!
E!!!!!!!!!! I need to make this clear-- they still watch from time to time but it is NOT the norm as it once was. (I did go cold turkey for a while.) Sometimes it just seems to be the best choice and even helpful...

andrea said...

hmmm...will have to store this away in my memory to pull out when needed.
Thanks for sharing such a sweet story.
Very cute and very touching.

It brought back memories when you said you could recite several books in your sleep. My poor grandmother, Memo, said she had to hide a book from me because she was tired of reading the same story every day. I can’t believe my grandmother would do such a thing! So good for you sticking with those same books and stories. 

Shhh….but for me that is amazing that you have given up TV!! I know several people who have done this (well the dad usually sneaks in some sports and news at night) but they all have very positive things to say about cutting it out.

Greg and I were talking about child rearing and how his family only allowed him 1 hour a week to watch TV and that is what he suggests when we have a family. I just had to laugh as I informed him that he watches more than 1 hour in a day, let alone a week.

Well that is wonderful to see how you and your family have been rewarded with such great memories that will not be lost in TV land.

Shannon said...

How sweet! I love that Julia was even thinking as far ahead as her own children!!!