I believe in reading out loud with my family.
I do not remember a time when my family did not sit down together to read. When I was two, we shared Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. By the time I was nine, we had progressed to the works of Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, and J.R.R. Tolkien. These were soon replaced by Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Ender’s Game. For my entire life, my father, my mother, my brother, and I have taken the time to gather and read. I have grown to embrace this tradition whole-heartedly.
Together, my family has discovered the classics and connected with the characters. We have been amused, and shed tears, and recognized similarities in our own lives. This occurred every night before bed, when we congregated in a comfortable spot to share a book, my father as the most frequent reader.
Over the years, our reading time was not always perfect. We did not necessarily stay intently focused on the reading at hand. Our nightly sessions sometimes doubled as a time for foot rubs, drawing, math homework, and even an occasional nap.
We also faced conflict. Many times, I tried to steal the book away to sneak in extra chapters on my own when I thought no one was watching. I just couldn’t stand the suspense and couldn’t wait until the following night to solve the mystery or get to the end of the chase. This always created a certain amount of turmoil. Reading ahead was a family crime. It was taboo.
These imperfections reflect the rest of our family life. We fight and disagree, and we do not always give each other our undivided attention when we should. But overall, we are as consistent in our care for each other as we were in our reading tradition.
What I value in this tradition is not as simple as the act itself. No, it represents what my family stands for. We value literature, and all that it has to teach us, whether it is about another culture, another time period, or another dimension. We value taking a little time each day to relax. Most importantly we value time spent together, participating and contributing to a common activity, and enjoying each other’s company.
Today, our lives are scattered. We reunite during college breaks and holidays. While we still take time to talk to each other, it is rare that we find ourselves once again around a common book. But even though we no longer have much time to sit and enjoy a story, we remain a united family.
Years of reading together have shown us that spending time together is something truly important. One day, I hope the tradition will be resumed when I introduce my own children to the wonders of books, and the warmth of family.
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