Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is it safe to read while you're walking?

Most mornings after getting my kids off to school, I see the same father walking his son to school. The boy must be around 12 by now. The dad reads a book to his son as they walk. I've witnessed this recurring scene for years. I can't picture any expression on the boy's face and I've never noticed what books they read (I think I've been distracted, wondering if the dad ever bumps or steps into anything).  When I first encountered them years ago, I thought this was a remarkable scene and wondered if maybe I owed it to my children to do the same thing.
Candidly, though, in our household, we get three girls ready and off to school every morning and it isn't pretty. By the time everyone's ready to leave, no one's in the mood to be read to and no one's in the mood to read to someone else - so this has never been a remote possibility for us. Over the years, I've convinced myself that this is not something I'd even want to emulate if I ever could get my act together. I've followed them for several blocks (not in a stalker way; we just happen to walk in the same direction) and I've never heard them speak to one another. I could be way off base but there seems to be no joy in Mudville - they don't talk, they don't laugh and I've never seen a smile. In my world, reading is meant to be joyful and stories are meant to be experienced.  I'm not sure if it's the serious nature of the books selected or the fact that there's no discourse between father and son but over time I've let myself off the hook because this scenario seems contrived and wrong and maybe even a little dangerous. I have to wonder if this is a dad who is convinced that this is way to give his child an edge in school and I have to wonder if the boy is getting anything positive out of this experience. Wouldn't you know it, though, a couple of days ago, I saw a mom walking her son to school and she was reading aloud to him as they walked. The boy must have been about 7. After a few lines, the boy looked up, smiled and said, "Ha, Mom, that was funny". He then asked her a question about something else and they talked about the something else for the next two blocks. This scene made me smile. There's a time and place for everything and this mother-son team seemed to have a good system in place for adding joy to their mornings. I smiled until I started to feel guilty about all those years I could have done it this way! My kids now range in age from 12-14. If I decided to read to them aloud on the way to school now (which, let's face it, is just fantasy and conjecture because they're 12-14 year old girls and I'll leave it at that), I wouldn't choose anything oppressive. Rather, I would opt for a great story we could all enjoy together like Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me or James Dashner's The Maze Runner and then its sequel The Scorch Trials. Those are the kinds of stories that might put a little skip in our step in the morning and make us eager to reunite for more at the end of the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment