Every night, I read the big boy a bedtime story. This tradition dates back to the time even before there was a little brother, an era that seems ancient. It’s not so much the story that matters as it is Daddy sitting on his bed reading aloud to him.
Back in the day, he liked a particular Thomas the Tank Engine book called, Thomas and Percy and the Dragon. It’s a Beginning Readers book of about 20 pages that is not flattering to Percy’s reputation, but then Percy does have his issues.
I read this book nearly every night, to the point where I had the dozen words on every page memorized. In a misguided effort to illustrate that we were perhaps overusing this book, I began reciting the story to the boy while looking at everything in his bedroom except the book.
I turned the pages on cue and recited the appropriate text while staring into the boy’s face. This effort to prod him toward fresh literature completely backfired. Thomas & Friends were doing comedy now, and he loved it. “Look at the page!” he would demand. I would sneak a peek at the book and quickly turn my gaze back at him, eliciting a stream of giggles.
One day, someone gave us a big, hardcover book about animals. I started reading this at bedtime. There was lots of information to digest, so we fell to the rate of one page per night. Sometime between the hyenas and the sharks, his little brother was born.
When we finally finished with the animals, someone gave us a big book of facts. Some of the concepts were over his head, and I’m sure he never wondered why Secretariat was such a fast horse (he had a freakishly oversized heart), but it was our thing.
I hesitated to continue some nights. I wasn’t sure he needed to know about Shakespeare yet. I hadn’t learned to run screaming from that name until ninth grade. Probably he was too young to foresee the terrible psychological scars The Bard will inflict upon his teenage years, so he didn’t flinch.
Eventually, his little brother joined our story time. The little boy doesn’t care about racehorses or playwrights. He wants only to grab the book or wrestle somebody. He’s a distraction from our routine, but he’s also part of our world moving forward, as it should and must.
It took nearly two years to read through those two books full of amazing and soon-forgotten facts. Two nights ago, we closed the back cover.
Last night, at bedtime, the little boy was too busy arguing with his mother to join us. The big boy was waiting on his bed. Sitting beside him was that old, flimsy paperback, Thomas and Percy and the Dragon. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.
I sat down and opened the book to the first page. I turned my face to the boy and began reciting.
He grinned as big as yesterday.
Be sure to let us know when you move up to “War and Peace”. If it doesn’t put him to sleep, all those Russian names will make him giggle.
I’ll wait until he can read that one to me.
Wonderfully nostalgic. It reminds me of my own childhood and the hours I spent pouring over Childcraft Annuals.
I had to look up Childcraft Annuals. Never heard of them before. Maybe that was what was lacking to start me on a successful educational career.
Love this post, Scott!
You always go for the sugary stuff.
Lovely and warm. Thank you.
Thank you for reading.
I loved this story. Thanks for writing about it. We have recently been re-visiting old toys that I thought our son had completely forgotten about. Even when we forget about stuff our kids often don’t.
They have the memories of elephants until you ask them, “What did you do in school today?” Then, they can’t remember a thing.
Our bedtime routine was similar until I started insisting that he tell me what was happening on each page before I read the words. Him telling me the same things over and over every night lost its appeal very quickly and we have discovered some new favorites to revisit now and again. The down side here is that you need a lot of new books to keep him from sliding back into the same book every night routine.
I’m starting to cook up some alternate endings to the well-read books. Makes them seem more fresh – to me, anyway.
This struck such a chord with me. Little Golden books, Robert Munsch (I never could make it through Love You Forever without crying), all the Doctor Suess books, Bunnicula, Captain Underpants- You know I kept them all. Those were some good times I tell you!
You can’t have too much classic literature in the house, just like you can’t have too many fond memories.
Love your blogs…am pretty sure your kids will love them too when they’ve mastered the art of reading!
Thank you. I really get a kick out of your posts as well. I like it when humor blogs are funny. I don’t know what’s wrong with those kids. I mean, I’ve had them for years, and they STILL can’t read.