Don’t Give Up On Reading Aloud

“Let us not become weary in doing good...”  Galatians 6:9a

       Today was the day we were to start reading aloud Caddie Woodlawn and no one was more excited than Mary. She loves stories about twelve-year-old girls and she longed to know how old Caddie would be in the story, hoping that she would be twelve, or maybe close. I opened the cover for the first time as John, Alex, and Mary all sat in a row on the sofa in the living room with the fresh morning sun shining in on us all, a welcome warmth on this February day, especially after the gray, rainy day we had the day before.

            I expected to start on the first chapter when my eyes suddenly caught a short note from the author. I skimmed it quickly knowing I was about to read it in its entirety to everyone in just a minute.  The author had written this last note after completing Caddie Woodlawn on February 22, 1935.  Today was February 22, 2005! I quickly skimmed a little more, enough to discover that Caddie was a real person. I shared with everyone that the author had finished the book on this very day in 1935 and that it was written about her grandmother.  John quickly did the math for us to discover that it was exactly seventy years ago. Mary exclaimed, “She’s real!” If there is something else that Mary loves in a book, it is for the characters to be real. In fact, she assures me that I must be wrong about Anne of Green Gables: she is convinced that Anne was a real person.

            After we got the dog-who-didn’t-know-where-to-sit settled, after we got it straight that Alex didn’t want John playing with his toy gun, and whether or not they could eat a bag of marshmellows while I read, we were ready to begin.  Well, almost.

            It seems there were some finches outside the window that caught my eye and I couldn’t resist telling everyone that they could watch them while I read if they wanted to. John and Alex ran to the window, but the finches had flown away, so everyone settled back on the couch. Now we were ready.

            I looked up and my heart was overflowing with joy.  There were three of my four children all sitting in stair-step fashion, waiting for the story to begin. We were about to read a part of American history and go back in time to a day that had long since passed, and together we were all about to take a trip to that distant place. But it wasn’t the study of history that was causing my heart to overflowing with God’s goodness. It was that we were living this memory that we were sharing together, this memory that would be filed in all our minds forever that no on could ever take away. It would go into a file that was so full of so many others like it that we had all shared together. He we go. Now we were ready. Well, almost ready.

            Alex decided there were too many people on the couch and he started pushing John off.  I said, “Alex, don’t push him off.”  “I’m not pushing him off, I’m just moving him, there’s not enough room ‘cause there’s too many people on the couch,” said Alex.  “Just ask him to sit on the chair,” I said.  Then, as I was about to ask John to please move over to the chair, he had already moved to the chair.  I think after on more dog incident, I said, “Let’s just put the dog out,” and we began.  Believe it or not, my heart was still glad and we began reading Caddie Woodlawn.

            No sooner did we read the first sentence that Mary’s burning question was answered.  Caddies is eleven when the book opens.  “Eleven!” exclaimed Mary thankfully.  Immediately, we learned several of the names of her siblings: Clara, Tom, and Warren.  Tom, Caddie, and Warren were about to embark on an adventure and the story began moving quickly.  Mary interrupted ands asked, “But where’s Clara?”  I said that I didn’t know.  I suggested that maybe just the younger ones played together.  Since Clara was the oldest, she was probably helping her mother in the kitchen. “Oh, I hate Clara helping her mother in the kitchen!” said Mary, most decidedly.  We continued reading to soon discover that there was another child in Caddie’s family: Hetty. “Oh!” Mary was glad.  I thought, “Mary is so much fun to read to.”  I am so glad that I am home with my children.

            Footnote to the story: we said goodbye to Caddie three weeks later, as we had completed the reading of her story. Upon hearing the last word, Alex and Mary held hands and shuffled their feet in a festive dance that even rattled the stuffed bird’s feet on top of our bookshelf. Our adventure with Caddie was over, but our memories of gathering together and enjoying the simple adventures of one red-headed American pioneer girl of the past will be forever in our hearts and minds.

            I began a new habit from page one of Caddie Woodlawn. I began taking notes in the margins of the book of what my children said---and in some cases, did---in reaction to what we were reading. My hope is that it will help me remember the sweetness of our time for years to come.

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“Don’t Give Up on Reading Aloud,” by Juana Mikels, originally published in Homeschooling Today magazine, November/December 2007. Used by permission. All rights reserved.