Jun 15, 2010

To Read or Not To Read

I just got home from Curriculum Night at my kids' wonderful public school. No matter what grade a child is in, the teacher reminds the parents to read to their children. It's a promise that we continue to make, year in and year out, PreK on up to fifth grade. As they get older they're supposed to take on some of the reading, but we are never supposed to stop reading to them ourselves. Apparently it's great for them to hear more complicated passages and ideas--it builds their vocabularies and expands their minds, and makes them ready for higher levels of reading themselves.

I don't do this. Isn't that terrible? It's really the one thing they keep drilling into us. Read to your children. Keep on reading to your children. Read, read, read. I get it.

My kids have never known the feeling of curling up with one of us, hearing Harry Potter or Little House, or Anne of Green Gables, or whatever. I've read to them before. My son and I read The Great Illustrated Classics version of Frankenstein, and The Prince and The Pauper. And I read The Secret Garden to my daughter. But these are the exceptions...the handful of books I can recall sharing with them. And my oldest kids are only eight and nine. Still at that cuddle-up-and-read age (something that, apparently, won't be true forever).

So what's my excuse? I've done some of my own calculations on the subject (never a good thing, given my inability to consider dissenting opinions with a clear head) and I'vecome to believe that it's not about the reading, but rather the quality time with an adult. I choose to share my quality time with them in different ways.

We play lots of games. Skip-Bo is a favorite game of ours, and fantan too. Very simple concepts, but still room for bits of strategy here and there. The Game of Life is too long for pre-bedtime, and Clue should be perfect, except that my mind isn't usually that sharp at 8:30 or so (were there always so many rooms?) and then everyone's mind wanders a bit, and then it takes longer than it should. Qwirkle is a huge favorite--a little known game where you build on shapes and colors with tiles, kind of like Scrabble. Set is fun too.

And then there's the old 'event tv' bit. I know it's a cheap move, but we really do enjoy bonding around American Idol, or a crucial Mets game (like the one being played right now). Huddled under a blanket offering up criticism, taking turns singing during the commercials, or second and third and fourth getting some bad call? It all feels like classic family time to me.

These things are more my speed than curling up with a book. I have plenty of guilt about it--I am a big reader myself, but rarely 'model' it around the kids since much of my reading time takes place on the subway to and from work. Wouldn't it be great if they came into my room at night to ask a question, and found me wrapped up in a novel rather than catching up on last night's Daily Show? Yeah, it would be great. Just not now, not in this lifetime.

Plus I've tried reading to them at night and I really struggle with it. I'm just too tired by night time to be able to keep my focus, and have often reached the end of a passage without having paid attention to a single word of it. What's the point of that then? That doesn't seem like sharing. And there's often more inflection in my voice from trying to stifle yawns than from any kind of animated reading.

So there we were, just a few hours ago, perched on desks and tables at Curriculum Night. The principal smiled her knowing smile and urged all parents to continue reading to their children--she gave a nod and a warm smile in my direction (I have the kind of face that makes people think I'm ultra-responsible) and I smiled back knowing that she heartily assumes that I'm a shining example of a parent who reads to her children. But that knowing smile was a lie. My kids are missing out on something I've promised to offer them. And I won't get this time back, and so on and so forth. But they sure do know how to hold on to a seven in fantan, and how to play the wild cards in Skip-Bo. And maybe they'll be okay after all.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

This is great! Just discovered your blog. Love the whole conceit. I did a little "Imperfection" list last week on mine. You're right -- it does feel SO liberating!!!!