|my son Alex reading to his son James|
My mother read to us almost every night when we were children. When We Were Very Young and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne; A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Story of Mr Prettimouse by Margaret Alleyne were particular favorites. My siblings and I were enthralled by her readings - and we also loved our father's bedtime stories which followed a particular script - Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Mr. Garibaldi, a story he made up, about a garibaldi biscuit who got captured and eaten at the end, by me!
I made him tell his stories the same way every time. At the end of Goldilocks, she promised to restore the bear's home to order, and although the porridge was all gone, she told them that if they liked, she would make them some cornflakes! We children always joined in with the final words of this story, as our father told it.
I also remember early stories that troubled me - like Beatrix Potter's Tale of Samuel Whiskers or Roly Poly Pudding. I'd turn the pages of that tiny book, knowing that a dreaded picture would soon be coming up. It was the picture that showed Tom Kitten captured by a family of rats and rolled in pastry dough. They were making him into a pudding, so that his ears poked out at one end and his tale poked out at the other.
But the stories that resonated for me were not the same stories favored by my own kids. My son Elliot particularly loved Beatrix Potter's Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle - which had made no impression on me as a child. It's about a hedgehog who takes in the neighborhood ironing. She sings a little song as she irons - and as I sang it, Elliot would knock the headboard of his bed - like the visitor knocked on Mrs Tiggy Winkle's door, signalling for me to stop. Interrupted, I would ask, "Who's that?" And Elliot went into peals of laughter. We must have repeated this sequence half a dozen times each night. I wonder what it did for him and why he loved it so?
|Mrs Tiggy-Winkle's song|
|...and the little girl who knocked on the door|
My son Alex particularly loved The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka - and Dr Seuss's The Lorax, while Rozzie's first favorite was The Cat In the Hat. She would imitate Sally at the end - striking Sally's pose after the shenanigans, when 'mother' returns from her shopping. Rozzie also made me read what was for her a disturbing Beatrix Potter Tale Of Jemima Puddle Duck. And now that I think about it, their favorite stories say a lot about them as they've grown up!
So it's delightful to watch my son Alex sharing books in the evening with his three month old son James. His little boy is already growing up with a routine that involves a bath and a book. He will become aware as he grows, of the rhythm of our beautiful spoken language and the joy of sharing books together. It's a wonderful gift to the children in your life. I'm so grateful my parents gave this gift to me.
Happy Christmas everybody!