For my last goal of this campaign, I wanted to put the focus back on the campaign itself. Too Small to Fail is a Clinton Foundation initiative whose goal it is to “close the word gap” and create more opportunity for parents to nourish their children’s minds. For me that has meant creating goals that are adventurous and conversation inducing. (And, screen-free…. Not that there is anything wrong with TV and movies and iPads. HOWEVER. It is impossible to carry on a real conversation with someone who is watching television//iPad-ing/facebooking/playing Wii.)
I digress… this post is about reading, or more specifically, the importance of reading aloud.
Since Archer was a babe, “stories before bedtime” have always been part of the routine. And then Fable was born and we’d read to both of them. When the twins arrived on the scene we set off to divide and conquer, one of us reading to the littles while the other read to the bigs… I don’t know why we chose to separate the reading times. Perhaps it seemed too overwhelming to do so as a group so we chose to separate.
But now that they’re two and graduating from board books to heartier narratives, I am hereby declaring a story time where we all six come together and share books, all of us taking turns reading aloud to one another. (Fable is just starting to learn to read but she loves making up stories as she goes, using the pictures as her guide. Most of the time the Fable version is far more interesting and DRAMATIC and ALWAYS full of imagination. Children are the greatest storytellers in the land.)
When I read aloud to a group of children, either at my kids’ schools or at home, I feel instantly… ALIVE. I feel animated and excited about the story I am telling. I feel like Santa Claus, passing gifts around the room. There is joy in sharing a story with someone that is completely separate from the joy of reading to oneself. Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time and yet we so often dismiss the art of the teller. The telling.
“Tell me a story, Archer.”
“Tell me a story, Fable.”
“Okay but you first.”
Storytelling is what bridges ALL gaps. It’s how we teach our children to empathize with those who are different, to feel less alone in moments where such a thing seems impossible. Storytelling is as innate as breathing and it is as much a gift to the listener to listen as it is the teller to tell. Like teaching. And raising. And loving.
Sitting with our sisters and our brothers, our children and their classmates, and using our voices and hands, our facial expressions, eye contact to stimulate and entertain and inspire is one of our greatest gifts as humans.
I’m on a major Joseph Campbell kick at the moment, so forgive me for being redundant but I feel this quote is relevant to this post and all things pertaining to adults who are responsible for raising and teaching the next generation of storytellers and doctors, leaders and artists, engineers and mathematicians.
A story holds the same purpose.
So does a relationship.
We have wrapped ourselves in the myths of our ancestors, both fictional and real, since the beginning of time and must continue to do so. We must recognize that listening is an art form that can only be honed when given the opportunity.
So is speaking. Telling. Sharing. Opening our books and our mouths and our minds and inviting our children to do the same. Because while some stories are to be read silently to ourselves, many of them serve tremendous purpose when shared.
A great storyteller is, by default, a fantastic listener because all must inhale before they exhale. Before you tell the story, you must pay attention to ALL the stories. With open ears and open eyes and open minds…
“That is how eyes and ears and minds open themselves to you,” I tell them. “We sustain ourselves through breath, after all.”
Teach a child to read, he’ll feed himself. Teach a child to read to others, he’ll feed the world.
Or, at the very least, his sisters. (And Papa…)