Most evenings, my siblings and I would pile onto the couch, those who didn’t fit spilled onto the floor or snuggled in a chair with dad. One of us would get mom her drink, just the way she liked it–a full cup of ice, fill with water let the cup sit for a moment then, dump the water and fill again. And we’d lose ourselves to the story. We hated the kids in Swallows and Amazons and laughed every time the Swiss Family Robinson shot their guns at a moving bush. Together we laughed as the BFG whizzpoped from Frobscottle. We cheered on Mrs. Frisby and the gallant Rats of NIMH, struggling to escape the claws of the farmer’s cat. We would smother our giggles when mom accidentally slipped into her southern accent. My dad pressing his finger against his lips as his eyes glimmered and his smile disguised itself in his beard. We shivered during the Laura’s long winter and cried when Beth died. Strawberry Girl, Charlotte’s Web, Homer Price, Amy’s Eyes and Treasure Island; every book as familiar as the brother or sister that sat next to us.
From the corner of a a couch crowded with siblings, I discovered the wonder of worlds so much beyond my own, yet so much a part of who I am.
Now, I have a daughter and I love reading to her. When she was tiny and feeding took a long time, I read her Tuck Everlasting and The Bridge to Terabithia. I also read her fairy tales, refusing to edit the gory details, because I believe that like G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Fairy tales don’t teach children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed.”
Now, she’s older we speed through board books, Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendack and I love helping her navigate these new worlds. I don’t know what will happen to her as she gets older, or where life will take us, but I want to give her these moments, the same moments my mother gave me, to hold onto. I think of them as Leonard Berstein wrote, “Cosmos in chaos.” I can’t control the chaos of the world, but I can give her these little universes to cling to and treasure.
When I was asked to be part of World Read Aloud Day, I immediately said “YES!” It’s basically everything I believe in (minus the nuggets, but it’s not a perfect world, alas!) Litworld, the sponsor of World Read Aloud Day, works to bring literacy to children around the world. They are a non-profit that wants to bring the gift of literacy–that ultimate cosmos in chaos–to children everywhere. Here is how they describe World Read Aloud Day: “ LitWorld founded World Read Aloud Day in March 2010 as an awareness day advocating for literacy as a right that belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another. By raising our voices together on this day, we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.”
So, on March 7, I will be reading aloud to some kids (details still being worked out, either at the local library or at my church) and I’ve sent them a donation to help them give the gift of story to children across the world. And it would very rad, if you would join me. On March 7 you can read aloud to your own kids or borrow someones (I’m sure they won’t mind, REALLY) or donate to LitWorld (I’m sure they also wouldn’t mind). —> DONATE
Let me know in the comments how you’re going to celebrate. And if you do choose to donate let them know I sent you. I don’t get a kickback or anything, but at least that nice publicist will know that she didn’t waste her time listening to my lame jokes over the phone. (“No, my baby can’t read yet, but she can compose her own symphony, so….”)