Monday, September 8

Anthropological Motherhood ~ Reading Baptism

Part Five
Offspring number five of five had not fully embraced the joy of reading.

This variance in familial expectations arrived as a companion realization to what offspring number three experienced, or failed to experience - many years earlier. Child number four enjoyed reading only to a point somewhere around the 8th grade. How three of the five did not grow up thrilled to the core to open a book is a somber mystery.

Books were given elevated status within the domicile from the beginning. Both parents brought to the union high school and college texts, as well as favorite childhood books that followed us year after year in our moves from place to place. Public library discards were considered treasure, and the infrequent opportunity to purchase books at a used book store or sidewalk sale had a spiritual quality to the moment of choice and purchase. Children were taught to handle books with care. As indisputable evidence of this fact, we still have pop-up books that retain their namesake feature.

Consanguinal kinsmen on the Tanner side also reverenced the written word by keeping prodigious personal libraries. Both Robin and James shared in passionate detail what they had read at school and enthusiastically recommended books which became my favorites as well. Because of Robin, I fell in love with Africa's "Cry, the Beloved Country" and "When Things Fall Apart". Knowing my love for Civil War history, she recommended "The Killer Angels" before it was popular. James had a great handle on Greek Mythology, historical and science fiction. He was deeply effected by "Number the Stars" and "Maniac Magee" in 4th grade. Robin's personal library (now combined with a husband's compatible love of books) is practically at a Thomas Jefferson level of acquiring and adding-to.

The diffusion of our cultural ideal with regard to reading prescribed modification as pertaining to 3 of the 5. They would not whole-heartedly welcome a book as a birthday or Christmas gift. As a result, I ended up reading those gifts again myself...great classics like "Watership Down", "Little Women" and "The Giver". Thankfully, there is an Evolution underway.

Since Leiland's mission, he is on fire with books and maintains a rigorous
reading schedule balancing ASU assignments with personal study. Asia recently purchased her own collector's copy of "Alice in Wonderland" ~ unabridged, the real deal. And then, there is Rachel.

A bubbly beauty to whom Angelina Jolie trivia, Disney's Cheetah Girls! and pop radio is life-blood, she has not enjoyed reading. Ever. It hurt my heart. In vain I tried to encourage, to inspire, to lead her to 'water' - always promising magical results if she would but give it a chance! Eventually I compromised standards. I agreed to help her read school assignments. We would take turns reading aloud whatever she felt was the insurmountable Kilimanjaro of student literature. Suddenly, it happened.

Last week it was "To Build A Fire" by Jack London. She asked me with a dead voice, "Is this one any good, mom?" I gushed. I clapped my hands. "Oh, are you kidding?" I squealed. "Be careful now, pay attention to the beginning. It's going to get scary pretty quick!" And we dived into the gold-rush Yukon on a fateful 75 below zero arctic day. The relationship between the man and the dog was easily grasped by Rachel, who knows the love for a dog - she understood the man's failure on this point.

But last night, it was different. "The Scarlet Ibis" the assignment,
the student declined my assistance. She only asked, "How about this one, mom? Is this any good?" Before I could correct myself I said, "Yes, but I hate it." She disappeared into her room. Much later, appearing suddenly at my side like a sodden ghost ~ a crumpled Rachel stood before me with a tortured little face, hot tears falling off her chin.

"Why did he do it? Why did he run away from Doodle, mom?!" she wailed, heart-broken.

I had forgotten all about her assignment. Rachel does not come to me for comfort. She does not allow touching or hugs. Yet here she was, almost destroyed by what she had read and needing an explanation. Pained, I grabbed my little girl and held her close. I begged her to try and understand that the older brother was still a child himself, and could not be wholly to blame . . . it was after all, just a story - it wasn't real. But softly I added, "This is the beauty of good writing, Ray - when the author can make you feel something simply because of the words he put on a page." Later, we would talk about the foreshadowing and clues in the family relationships.

It was magical, just as I had promised; she had been completely swallowed up in the story. She was responding emotionally to what was intended to evoke. It was finally, a great reading success for her.

But oh, how bitter-sweet. How terribly bitter-sweet.


Yaj said...

That eyes and hearts can connect so easily is ever amazing to me... plus, we can go so many places, in minutes! If only spiritual stomachs were so easily filled by this eye-heart coordination we all might be more diligent in feasting on some really good stuff every day!

If only...

Cynthia said...

How in the world can we raise kids that don't like to read? That was a VERY specific goal I had as a young mother. I've got one who loves to read. One that is willing to read if necessary, and two that will embrace any method possible to avoid reading. Go figure.
Glad you are still trying. I almost gave up, but this summer I have been trying to engage the girls in a novel, reading out loud to them. It is slow going, but we are enjoying the process.

CaliZona said...

How can you mention your group reading therapy and not tell us the title????

Yaj said...

Our daughter's school has a summer reading list for each grade - 10 books, from which they can choose any three.

First day of school they take multiple choice tests on the books they read and must make an 8/10 to pass. If they don't pass they read the book(s) again and retake the test! Yikes!

She got into Nancy Drew last school year (5th grade) and read a few during the summer. But, she had to balance that with the required reading, not too early and not too late, so when she took the tests she actually remembered the books! Unfortunately, Nancy Drew is not required reading!

Cynthia said...

We're reading Twilight. Everyone is reading it, I thought we should too.

'L' said...

I am disappointed there was no mention of our extensive ‘Goosebumps’ collection and the often reading frenzy of two books in one rainy day… now there we have some classic literature. :)