2007.01.07 The bedtime reading ritual

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I read the other day that one in 10 parents dreads hearing the words, “Please read to me before I go to sleep.”

The study found that many parents “struggle to understand the bedtime stories they read to their children.” What? Are they reading “Introduction to Astrophysics”?

Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.

Maybe they’re choosing the wrong books.

The study also found that a quarter of the parents surveyed skipped passages or made up words to get to the end of the sentence. I can see where you wouldn’t want your six-year-old to urge you on, saying, “Now just sound it out. What does the first letter say?”

The study was carried out in the United Kingdom and it appears that evening reading is going well over there. It was listed as preferable to playing in the park or watching television.

It was certainly my preference when our kids were growing up, but then again, we didn’t have a TV to compete against. The nightly reading saga was big entertainment. Just think how exciting it must be now during the Harry Potter era.

In two days this week, I heard two different radio interviewers talk with actor Jim Dale, now famous as the voice on the recorded version of the Harry Potter books.

Dale is very good. He does distinct voices for each of the main characters. In book five, he said, there were 134 characters that author J.K. Rowling wanted put to voice. Sixty of those voices were eliminated in book six, but more than 60 new ones were introduced.

Dale kept track of characters with a tape recorder so he would remember a voice when it again entered the story.

I was certainly no professional like Jim Dale, but I did try out some voices now and then. Maybe a little falsetto for female characters, but it wasn’t really popular and I was sometimes asked to stop.

Even more likely, I would get called for making a character say something inappropriate.

“Is the moon really made of green cheese?” Laura asked Ma.

“No, you little nincompoop,” she said. “Looks are deceiving. Sheesh!”

I think it was probably during the third time through the Little House series that I started to get a little loose with the process. I was just as intrigued as the kids were the first time through.

With careful finger work, it was possible to turn two pages at once and blend right into the story line despite the loss of details. Sometimes you got caught, sometimes you didn’t.

But that was never done with the Little House books. They were the sacred text of night-time reading. You don’t mess with Laura Ingalls Wilder, except, perhaps on the third time through, but by then it was tough not to play it straight because the kids already knew the story.

I still remember the power of those tales, like the time we read “The Long Winter” during the heat of July.

The window fan was running, it was probably 80° in the bedroom, but when I finished reading about the trials and tribulations of an exceptional winter in the little town of De Smet in the Dakota Territories, I half expected to look out the window and see snow on the ground. I really got drawn into those tales.

As many of you know, there’s excellent children’s literature that makes good reading for adults. “Julie of the Wolves.” “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” “Caddie Woodlawn.” “The Indian in the Cupboard.” “Danny, the Champion of the World.” I could take any of those out of the bookcase and read them tomorrow.

Well, not tomorrow. For me, tomorrow is Monday, a busy newspaper day, followed by Tuesday, a bigger newspaper day.

I was always excused from reading to the kids on Mondays because I was at work. I’d catch up on tired Tuesdays, but that would lead to another problem.

Suddenly the voice would go silent. I’d be in that relaxed state of mind and just doze off. An elbow from Ben or a “Dad, wake up!” from Rozee would get me going again.

I’ve read that one out of 10 weekly newspaper editors fears these words on a Tuesday night: “Please read to me before you fall to sleep.”

  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
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  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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