What are your favorite childhood memories? Many of mine involve books: going to the library with my mom and brother, snuggling up together and reading The Wind in the Willows before bed at night. One lovely book memory in particular is being at Lake Coeur d'Alene, lying on a blanket in the shade under a big tree, just after a lunch eaten in swimsuits following a morning of swimming, listening to my friend Rachel's mom, Elizabeth, read A Girl From Yamhill out loud to us. I thought it was the best story ever, and Elizabeth was quite the talented and engaging read-aloud reader. The sun was filtering gently through the green leaves and we could hear the soft lapping of the water at the lake's edge down the hill from where we were resting. Heavenly!
Today, Beverly Cleary turns 100! I loved this article in the New York Times about her life's work. My favorite part is when Cleary denies that Ramona Quimby is modeled after herself. "I was a well-behaved girl," she said, "but I often thought like Ramona." Didn't we all!
The article becomes more serious when author Nicholas Kristof writes, "Cleary says that when she goes back to Yamhill, everything seems the same as ever -- except that now the kids aren't playing in the streets but are inside watching television." That's crushing to read. Especially after loving and relating to her accounts of childhood play so deeply and intimately. It's depressing to think that today's children aren't getting those experiences. Not only are they not playing outside as they should be, but they're not reading either. Kristof points out that "We measure child poverty by household income, but a better metric might be how often a child hears stories read aloud." Wow.
This is something J and I have been discussing lately, but Kristof's article sealed the deal for us. We decided no more iPad on road trips. It makes everything easier, sure, but at a cost we're no longer willing to incur. Instead, we downloaded some audiobooks and when he and Coco went skiing at Schweitzer, a 2 1/2 hour drive each way on Sunday, he and Coco listened to Frog and Toad and Beatrix Potter tales all the way there, and all the way back. He said it was so fun, and they talked and laughed together. J and I had both become a bit sad and alarmed at how completely engrossed in the iPad Coco becomes. It's like she's not even there when she's using it. And, following a road trip and lots of iPad time, she was always in a foul mood for days afterward. Phones and tablets and screen time with children are the slipperiest of slopes.
Before bed at night, we read Coco and Theo each three books. If we read minimum three books per day, that is over 1000 books per year. It sounds like a lot, but it isn't really. It's just 15 minutes a day. That's all! Yesterday, J took them to the library and got stacks of new titles. Right now, Theo's favorite book is Counting Kisses. If he sees it, he reaches and whimpers for it until we read it. For almost a year, we had a to read Alfie and the Big Boys as one of Coco's three nightly books every single night, but she's finally expanded her repertoire.
Do you read together with your children every day? Do they get plenty of time outside? How does their childhood compare to your own?
PS - The Quintessential American Bedtime Story, Little Kids Like Reality and The Best Thing You Can Do To Help Your Child Succeed in School.
(Photo via NPR)