This week, we hit 2222 days of reading aloud. I had noticed it coming as I logged our daily reading as we passed day 2200, and since our reading streak is reliable as a daily connection time, I shared with Zoe that we’d hit 2222, and she asked me to blog about it.
The reading streak was initially created by Zoe’s request, though for most of the past six plus years, I’ve read aloud to both Zoe and Mia. Sometimes each had a separate book going for me to read. But, in September, we ended our six years of hosting au pairs which meant that Zoe could move out of the girls’ up-to-then shared bedroom, and into the vacant room. So, now I read nightly to Zoe and continue to log it. Mia and I read separately in her room, and she likes to alternate reading to me and being read to and playing games. It’s an entirely different pace. It’s easier to give them each the kind of bedtime they want now that they are not in the same room.
Our pace has definitely slowed over the years as Zoe and Mia have become capable independent readers and as busy sports and activity schedules and the constant pull of electronics compete for our shared leisure time. For more than a year now, we’ve been reading the series “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome, sailing and boating adventures set in England. Each book takes us more than the nine weeks you get with two renewals from the library, so we pay fines, or if I remember, we request the same book on Zoe’s account, return the one I had checked out, and carry on with our reading. These books are an antidote to our always-connected life now. The child characters have days or seemingly weeks as a pack with their friends to map a whole island, invent pretend worlds, and sail across seas. With each book, I inquire if Zoe wants to continue with the series, and she does. We are nearing the end of “Secret Water” and we await arrival of the next book “The Big Six.” There are four more in the series so that may occupy much of this year of reading. After that, I suppose we’ll branch out. Now that Zoe is interested in more challenging content, I have notions of reading “The Diary of Ann Frank” or maybe something by Ursula Hegi as I have fond memories of reading that aloud to a precocious nine-year-old friend when I was in my late twenties and staying with her family on sabbatical in Brittany, France.
Mia and I are currently reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. She has seen the movie. I have not. Mostly, she doesn’t like movies and Zoe has only recently started to enjoy movies. They’re curious about that. I think it’s because we didn’t watch a lot of movies when they were younger so they still find them loud and fast, and kind of overwhelming. Mia also still finds picture books engaging, and she really likes to play games, so a lot of nights her time with me has been in playing Scrabble or Iota or rounds of War.
I’ve begun to travel more this year for workshops and trainings, and I give the girls a choice about how to keep our reading and connection lifeline going during these separations when they are home with overnight sitters. When Zoe went on to a week-long sleep-away camp, she took photocopied pages from the book we were reading at the time, and we read in parallel those days we were apart. When I can call them, to read over the phone or video-call, they prefer that. On one recent trip, when Mia was missing me, she read me a couple of picture books about other mamas and their young, “The Kiss Box” and “Make Way for Ducklings.” It really helped. After that, she got Zoe to do origami with her.
For independent reading, both still enjoy books from the library. Zoe has also discovered the Libby app on the iPad and so she can request and read books from the Overdrive collection without involvement from me. The usability is better with that than using the Kindle which requires me to do the final Amazon to Kindle push.
As Zoe has started middle school this year, and has moved further away from us in the house, our shared reading time remains a special connection. Even when we’re mad at each other, we read. Even when we get home at 10 pm, we read, sometimes before we go out, sometimes after and only for a paragraph. But, I’d say reading aloud together has become an essential part of our life, and I particularly love when I hear questions from the girls connecting characters from the books to real life situations, or when I hear the girls use vocabulary they could only have learned from reading.