Friday, July 10, 2009

Loud and Clear

Last night my in-laws were in town to catch my children's swim meet, and on the drive to the pool I mentioned having blitzed through Jean Latham's CARRY ON, MR. BOWDITCH. (I finished two books on Wednesday! Two! Latham's and A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE. Granted, with the latter, it'd taken me a couple weeks total, but I wrapped it up on Wed.)

"I read that out loud to my sixth grade class," said my father-in-law Gene. "They loved it. That and MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE."

Gene wasn't the only one who remembered those books and the fifteen minutes a day of reading aloud in class. Years and years and years later he ran into one of his former students, and MARA came up. "I remember that book!" said the now-grown-up. "There was a love scene, and you read it all stumbly."

Funny that, when books are read aloud to us, we remember things about the reading, and the memories of the reading color our memories of the book. Forevermore, when that former student encounters MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE, she'll remember Mr. Dudley getting all "stumbly" over Mara kissing her love interest.

Sometimes a book can't live up to its read-aloud memory. I insisted on THE WHEEL ON THE SCHOOL because of my fond memories of a classroom reading, only to have my children wander away mentally, bored, and to find that, despite my best efforts, I was finding it a little dull as well.

Other times we'll never know how the books stands up. I still remember my fourth-grade teacher Ms. Lepeisha (and it was definitely "Ms." with her, back in the '70s, when that meant something) reading us MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH. I haven't read the book since, but to this day, when I take my children to the library, I beg my oldest in vain to check it out. "Please!" I want to say, "It's one of my three memories of Ms. Lepeisha: how she read NIMH, how she could do short division lickety-split, and how she once threw my workbook at my head for not following directions."

We do a lot of reading aloud in our house: the entire HARRY POTTER series, the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (which was absolutely made for reading aloud), the splendid SKIPPYJOHN JONES series, and on and on. The memories might or might not last their whole lives, but hopefully they'll last long enough to balance out my more Ms.-Lepeisha-like moments as a mother.

Favorite read-aloud memories for you?


  1. My mom reading "Raggedy, Raggedy, Raggedy Man"

    Driving across the country after fifth grade and my mom reading my sister and I The Hobbit and how she would voice Gollum ("Precioussss") - The taste of tangerine Lifesavers is intertwined with this memory.

    My sixth grade teacher reading a biography about Babe Didrikson and crying when she read that Babe bought her mom her first refrigerator. I worked with a sixth grade reading group this year and we read a short story about Babe - I shared that with them since it left an impression on me.

  2. Jana, those are wonderful! I gave Gollum my best hissy spin, too. Hope it sticks.

  3. My favorites of those read aloud would have to include "A Wrinkle in Time." I too was a bit of a misfit girl and found hope and encouragement in the adventures of Meg.