When your children are long grown and out of the house, as ours are, you tend to cherish the memories of the days when the entire family was together and under one roof. One of my favorite recollections from those days was of reading to the kids when they were toddlers, right before their bedtime.
Of course, the child-rearing experts will tell you that reading aloud to your children is an important method of establishing a strong connection with your kids, as you spend time on a common activity, sitting close together on a sofa, with no TV noise in the background or other distractions. And the educational experts would tell you that, by reading aloud, the parent was directly showing the importance of reading and incentivizing the child to learn for himself how to decipher those words on the page. All of those are no doubt true, but in reality we did it because . . . well, it was fun, and it became a family ritual, and human beings of all ages tend to like rituals that are enjoyable, besides.
In our household, as I suspect is true in every household, there were perennial favorites as the kids grew up. Goodnight Moon. The Runaway Bunny. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Corduroy. Caps for Sale. Green Eggs and Ham. Stone Soup. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And, when the holidays came, How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol. We sat side by side and slowly turned the pages, looked at the beautiful pictures, and heard, once again, the familiar stories. And as we read, and reread, these books that are written to be read aloud, our inner thespians emerged, and Moms and Dads would give the characters different voices and act out the stories, too.
I’m confident that you could hand me a copy of Caps for Sale — one of my favorites — and I would immediately fall back into reading it with the same rhythm and cadence and voices that I did 25 years ago, with the brown caps, and the blue caps, and the red caps on the very top. There was a lot opportunity for a Dad to ham it up, too, with the angry, foot-stomping, fist-shaking cap seller saying, “You monkeys, you! You must give me back my caps!” And the naughty monkeys high up in the tree that went “tsst, tsst, tsst.” The actors among us got immediate gratification when the audience inevitably said, “Read it again, Daddy!” Of course, whether that enthusiastic response was due to the quality of my performance or a desire to avoid going to bed for just a while longer was never entirely clear.