Sunday, March 07, 2010
When I was growing up, my father had one favorite book to read aloud to me: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (with illustrations by Robert Lawson). Well, actually, our copy was El Cuento de Ferdinando translated into Spanish by Pura Belpré, (with my father's re-translation back into English handwritten on each page by my mother).
In my memory, this was my goodnight book off and on for many years, sometimes read in English and sometimes in Spanish (which I didn't and sadly still don't understand).
In truth, I have no idea how many times I heard the story, but the words, the feeling, and the experience of sharing that time with my father all had an impact on me. A positive one.
My father read other books, too, and shared stories from newspapers, magazines, and wherever else he found them. When I headed off to college, he emailed stories he'd find to me (and I emailed ones I'd find back to him).
Later, I moved to Los Angeles, leaving my computer science degree unused to pursue my dream of being a screenwriter. Was that the influence of Ferdinand sending me off to find my own path? Perhaps. Certainly, my father smiled at the choice. Soon, I was writing stories... and my father was always one of my first readers.
I have two boys of my own now. I love to read aloud to them. I share books and poems and stories snuggled on the couch and from the front of the car and huddled around my computer and shouted from across the room and, well, wherever we are and wherever we find stories. They already share back.
I know research shows how important it is to read aloud to children. Literacy is so critical and that alone should be reason enough for dads (and moms) to read to their kids. But for me, the reasons to read aloud and share stories go deeper still.
When you share stories, they became part of the way you communicate. My father and I could use stories to share what excited us, to learn and teach, to help decipher the world, to connect with each other even thousands of miles apart. Understanding stories helped broaden my world and has made my life richer.
Best of all, though, sharing stories creates a bond, and a surprisingly strong one at that. And reading aloud with your child begins the process.
I've been the volunteer librarian at my sons' school for five years now, and when I walk across campus, it's not at all unusual for a student to run up to me to tell me what they're reading or to share a story of their own. Even there, with me only reading to them once a week, story has created a connection. You can capture that at home. It isn't hard.
Pick your favorite books or let your child pick. Read what excites you from a magazine or newspaper or read what you think might excite them. Be enthusiastic, no matter what you're reading (even when it's a book you can't believe they like), and show your child that you have the time for them, that you care what they like, that you are listening, and you are sharing.
And remember, reading aloud is an experience... a shared moment... and not a race to the end of the story.
By reading aloud, you will make a positive impact, often in ways you never even contemplated.
You see, my father passed away about a dozen years ago. Yet to this day, when I see any copy of The Story of Ferdinand, not just my childhood copy which I still have, I can hear my father reading to me...
And like Ferdinand himself, I am very happy.
So share a story. Shape a future. Read aloud to your kids and give a gift that lasts a lifetime.
(I'm proud to be a part of the kick off day of Share a Story - Shape a Future, a week-long reading and literacy related blog event. Click through to learn more and see links to some wonderful posts throughout the blogosphere.)
Posted by Greg Pincus at 9:53 PM I'm reading: Sharing Stories: A Gift That Lasts a Lifetime