Grandmother reaches around, helping each grandchild scurry into the bed, in her lap lies a small orange book. Once sure everyone has settled, she smiles and slowly opens the book and begins to sing.
“No, no, baby elephant,
No, no, you can’t go.
No, no, you’re too little
wait until you grow.”
– Inez Hogan, About Nono, The Baby Elephant, (Read to Me) Hardcover, E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc. (1947)
Then she begins to read. Her style is animated, reflecting years as an elementary teacher. We listen intently; the story is a bit babyish for us big kids, but we don’t care – we have always loved this story.
On other occasions, the cousins sprawl on the sofa, fidgeting for position around Grandfather. Somehow the youngest ones always find a spot next to him and snuggle in. Once settled, he adjusts his glasses and opens a book. Grandfather reads in a quiet, hushed tone, a tone that demands your attention. It is a polished style, developed over decades as a classroom teacher. However, to the fourteen cousins, it doesn’t matter who reads the story, we just want to be close.
Half a century later, I can’t remember the names of the books, save for Nono Baby Elephant – but, it did come with a song.
A Christmas tradition was for Grandmother to tell us a story. But not just any story. It had to be Tommy and Rosie. Soon every grandchild had memorized the story, so woe to Grandmother should she make a mistake. If she did, it was quickly corrected. This tradition continued up until her death at age 99. I subsequently researched the origin of that story and published her version (Tommy and Rosie, available at Lulu.com or buggasbooks.com).
Such moments with Grandfather and Grandmother, are among my earliest and strongest memories. Now to be fair, Mom and Dad also read to us – I especially remember Dad reading The Five Little Peppers And How They Grew. However, it was these special moments with my grandparents that sparked my love of reading and read I did. From the “new” Dr. Suess, through Tom Swift, to the classics, reading was never a chore; it was special.
I cherished reading, eager to share it with my children, although my job required me to attend numerous night meetings. To get to these meetings I traveled throughout southern Indiana, and soon learned the location of the bookstores in my client cities and towns. When I had free time, I would visit these shops to select a couple of new books for the kids. For years I carried a tattered list in my billfold – a list of the Nancy Drew’s my daughter owned. I kept the list to make sure I would never give her a duplicate. I am glad to report that these precious books now reside in her 3rd-grade classroom. For my son, I kept an eye out for sports stories, especially those written by Matt Christopher.
What makes reading to our kids so important? It is not the books; each child has their favorite. No, it is something else. It is the comfort of a familiar routine, a quiet moment in their lives when Grandpa, or Grandma, or Bugga is giving them full attention. The children relax bathed in the closeness, the sense of belonging. That is why we read to them. Should they develop a love for reading along the way, that’s icing on the cake. Reading is such a simple thing to do; it takes less time than a stupid sit-com. After all, aren’t the kids worth the time?
Today, I treasure reading to my grandkids. I see that same spark in their eyes as they rearrange our stacks of books, searching for their favorite. Many of those books are dog-eared, threadbare from use – thirty years ago they were my kid’s favorites.
“Big bad wolf,” two-year-old Denali commands, dragging out a tattered and taped copy of the Three Little Pigs.
“Big bad wolf. Scare,” she pleads, plopping the book in my lap. Of course, by now I can recite the book from memory, but it wouldn’t be the same. No, I adjust my glasses as she snuggles closer . . .
“Once upon a time. . .”
David L Dahl.
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Read more about Olivia’s Story here – http://www.buggasbooks.com/book/olivias-story/
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