Ever since our firstborn’s first day home from the hospital, we’ve been reading out loud to our sons every night. The book we chose to inaugurate this ritual? Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.
Not your typical bedtime read-aloud book, but for a one-day-old, we figured it was okay. Our main goal was to establish the daily routine early.
Besides, we ourselves wanted to read Ivanhoe. Also, the newborn began to learn and recognize the sound of his parents telling him a story.
After Ivanhoe, we switched to board books and picture books—Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La!
We read them slowly, savoring the words and illustrations. We read them so many times that, even now, I can recite them by memory and tell you when to turn the page: “In the great green room / There was a telephone / And a red balloon / And a picture of— [turn page] the cow jumping over the moon.”
Before my second son started walking, he used to crawl to me, dragging a book in one hand. I remember sitting on the floor (as I often do) with my back against the bookshelves, watching him bring me another Sandra Boynton. Here he comes.
As he crawled into my cross-legged lap, I resolved to stay put and read the book to him no matter how many times he asked.
So when I turned the last page and he said, “Again?” I read it again.
Through every iteration, I made sure to still read it slowly and enjoy the story. No rushing.
We read that book seven times in a row before he crawled out of my lap. I stayed, waiting to see if he would ask for the eighth.
Of course, we adjusted as our sons grew older. Five or ten minutes of bedtime reading turned into half an hour or more. On weekly library trips, we took home Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel), Poppleton (Cynthia Rylant), and colorful, well-mannered dinosaurs (Jane Yolen).
Deep and thoughtful discussions became part of bedtime reading as we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Count of Monte Cristo (all unabridged). Currently, my husband is reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper to our nine-year-old, and I’m reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War (Volume I) to the older two boys.
The initial intent stuck: we established a habit of reading every night, fifteen years and counting. The fun ritual that started with a one-day-old who slept through most of Ivanhoe has become part of our routine, part of our relationship.
Hear the Bible Out Loud
When was the last time someone read aloud to you? When did you recently sit down for nothing but the joy of hearing good words artfully woven together?
How to Listen to Bible Gateway’s Audio Bibles
1. Go to BibleGateway.com, hover over the “Bible” tab in the upper left, and click on “Audio Bibles.”
2. Choose your preferred audio version. (For a special treat, try one of the versions “by Dramatized”!)
3. Choose the book of the Bible . . .
4. . . . and the chapter.
5. Press play, and hear the story!
Consider it a treat. Someone is reading aloud to you. Like the child who asked for the same book seven times in a row, savor the story and hear it as many times as you want by pressing “play” again and again.
Did you know about International Day of the Bible on November 23, 2015? Check it out.
A portion of the above first appeared in one of my articles for Charity Singleton Craig’s How to Bring Words to Life Column, 5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children).