This week is Children’s Book Week. It seems so appropriate to me that it should start so soon after Mother’s Day because my mom instilled a love of reading in me by reading to me and my sisters. Of course, most moms read to their kids when they are little but my mom continued the tradition way past the point where we all could (and did) read on our own. There was something wonderful about the five of us curling up together with a book that I never really outgrew. I also spent a lot of time reading to my younger sisters, something that we all remember fondly.
And now that I am an auntie, I make sure that my nieces and nephews get introduced to the best children’s books I can find, both the childhood classics that I grew up with and some of the adorable new books that they have come out with since I was a child. When I found out that my sister was having a baby boy and was doing the nursery up with a monster theme, I HAD to go out and get a copy of The Monster at the End of this Book (a family favorite!) to go with the monster baby blanket I was knitting for him. (There would have been a copy of Where the Wild Things Are too but someone beat me to it and gave that as a baby shower gift!) And when Miles’ first Christmas rolled around, a copy of the Baby Lit version of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol found its way under the tree! (For Miles’ first Halloween, I am already planning on sending him the Baby Lit versions of Frankenstein, Dracula and an adorable take on Poe’s The Raven! And I am dying to buy SOMEONE a copy of Zombie in Love, which is just too funny for words!)
The point is, I am a HUGE believer in reading aloud with almost anyone. As I have mentioned before, my husband and I enjoy reading aloud to each other. But I especially believe in reading to kids of all ages and it seems that I am not alone in this since I just read a great article on all the benefits of reading aloud to older children. But for all the developmental and academic benefits that reading together has, I think the best thing about it is that it brings people together. Reading a book together gives you a common experience, a common set of references that cannot help but make communication easier and really opens the door for people to talk about what they think and what they feel in ways that no other activity does.
But don’t just take my word for it. A while back, I discovered a book called The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. It’s a non-fiction book about a girl and her father who made a commitment to read together every night. It is a beautiful testament to the joys of reading and the need to carve out time to spend together with the people we love. I wrote a review of the book when I first read it and thought that this week would be a great time to share it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s hard to review The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma without gushing a little. To be fair, I am really the perfect audience for this book. As a life-long obsessive reader, I recognized many of the books that Alice and her father read together, which gave me frequent moments of happy nostalgia.
Also, I come from a family where reading together was a common occurrence. I have fond memories of my sisters and I curled up on the couch listening to my mom read to us way into my high year years. And since I was so much older than my younger sisters (there is an age gap of 5-9 years between us), I spent a lot of time reading to them. I read the Dr. Seuss ABC book to my youngest sister, Lynne, so many times that I can still recite most of the little poems he wrote for each individual letter from memory – all the way from “Big A, Little A, What begins with A? Aunt Annie’s Alligator. A. A. A” to “Big Z, Little Z. What begins with Z? I do. I am Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz as you can plainly see.” And then there was the infamous incident involving Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart, a stormy evening and a door that I was able to unobtrusively nudge into creaking at a particularly suspenseful time in the story…. And so, this book couldn’t have appealed more to me if the author had written specifically for me.
Having said that, I found The Reading Promise charming above and beyond the nostalgia it evoked. It isn’t just a bibliophile’s celebration of their favorite childhood books. It is the story of a father and daughter who made a commitment to each other – to read together every day for 1,000 days. It’s a story about how it is vital and possible to prioritize and make time for the things that are important to us. It’s a story about how books can help us connect to each other. It’s a story about a single father using books to help him navigate a young girl’s life. It’s a story about a love of books, a love of family and of the vital importance of taking time to experience and appreciate both.