Saturday, February 02, 2008

month of loves: books & people

Well, I've missed two days of my little project, so I'll do a double-header here to make it up.

My people for today are my parents. You can't really say enough about such wonderful parents, and if I tried, this post would never end, so I'll just write about how my concept of "parents" intersects with my concept of "books."

Our home is filled with books. I know a lot of people say that, but I don't think I've ever been in another house that has anywhere near the sheer volume of books that inhabits our house. Thankfully, an awful lot of reading also went on in our house so I knew the books weren't for show but because my family valued what was inside the books. I have many fond memories of stories and reading in our home.

I loved it when my dad would tell us stories. He made up stories about us children where each of us had a corresponding animal character. As animals we did things like escape from zoos, play tricks, and cheer up sick children in a hospital when the adults weren't looking. We called them Mischief and Ugg stories since those were the names of my two oldest brothers' (Michael and Doug) characters. Mine was a bird named Feather McGee.

Daddy also had great voices when he would tell or read stories to us. His voice for the troll under the bridge in The Billy Goats Gruff was terrifyingly low and growly and I'd always squeal when it came roaring up in the story. It didn't help that Daddy would tickle and bounce us through books-- reading with him was always a very physical experience. I loved how he could read Dr. Seuss so fast! I now realize that by the time child number six came along, he had read those books thousands of times, but I thought it was more because he just had an amazing talent for tongue twisters. We also had a wonderful game that went along with The Gingerbread Man which could be another post in itself, but the point is, Dad made reading and stories so much fun.

Daddy being his usual silly self

Mom after a trip to the British Library

Of course, Dad wasn't the only one who read to us. One of my favorite parts of our road trips across America from Ohio to Utah or California was reading aloud. In our old vans, you could turn the passenger-side captains chair all the way around so it faced the back. Mom would sit there and read to us, and we'd each take turns reading, too. I vividly remember sobbing into the driveway at Grandma's house as we finished up Watership Down. Even once I was a teenager, we still read together. I have a firm conviction that Harry Potter is much better read aloud and shared with family than read alone.

I also remember countless hours of my own reading to my mom. I loved the American Girl dolls-- I still do-- and they had wonderful books to go along with the dolls. I don't think I would have enjoyed the dolls nearly as much had I not read every single book written about them. I loved that I learned about history through them, and I loved that the girls were nice-- something I didn't see much of in late elementary school. For me, the best way to read the books was to sit on the floor in Mom's sewing room and read them out loud to her while she sewed. Often, she was making clothes for my dolls. Either I had chosen a dress from the catalog and Mom created a pattern for it and made it for me, or I designed the dress. But she would sew and I would read and in between, we'd talk. It was a marvelous way to bond.

Later on, in high school, when I was assigned Shakespeare to read, Mom and I would sit down together and read the plays out loud, each taking several parts. As we went along, we'd talk about the play so I could be sure I had the storyline right. I'm sure that many of the points I made in essays about the plays came from our discussions, so I can credit Mom with my good grades. And it kept Shakespeare from being scary. I ended up taking two classes on Shakespeare in college, just for the fun of it, and my brother Steve would organize Shakespeare readings on Sunday afternoons at BYU. (One of those resulted in a wedding where Steve met his own fiance, so kudos to Steve and Mr. William Shakespeare!)

As I currently ponder my future motherhood, I've thought a lot about the kind of parent I want to be. Books, stories, fun, and imagination were so central to my childhood that I can't imagine being a good parent without them. My collection of children's books is small at the moment, but I imagine it will grow as my children do. And I am great supporter of libraries.

So, here's my plug for the day: if you're one of the few people who read this, take a minute today to read! Even better, call your grandchild, niece, mom and read to them. I'd love to hear your reports!


Susan said...

Oh Heather...I love to read. I've had reader's block, if there is such a thing...but today, as jan warren and I watched the funeral in my home, I determined to break that block somehow. Jan is such a good reader. But thanx for the additional boost

Anonymous said...

I "read" your blog and love to read books too! I've been going through somewhat of a reader's block as well and really miss reading. I'm currently trying to read Wicked before I go and see the play. Hope I make it.


Anonymous said...

I loved this journal the first time I read it and had tears in my eyes at parts. Today my Mom told me about my Grandmother taking her Great-Granddaughter (my cousin's daughter) to the book store and picking out books with her. I immediately thought of this entry and then read parts of it aloud to my Mom. She enjoyed it too and reminisced about reading memories from our own family. : )Mom thinks you should "send this somewhere" to be published haha I think I get my being over sentimental from her : )
* Anna Jo *