As Rioters already well know, reading is simply a way of life. When our children become readers as well, that’s icing on the cake. My six year old daughter is already an avid reader. The very first thing I did with her, more or less, was read to her. You betcha that I went to the hospital with books to read packed into my delivery bag! I even read out loud to her while I was pregnant. She learned to read when she was four and now she is in the advanced literacy class in her school. So yeah, I’m crazy proud of her. Reading is just something we have always done, and it is integral to our family structure. We read together, we read separately, we read out loud to each other, and to others, and silently to ourselves. It’s a way of life, as I said.
Recently, my daughter and I listened to an audiobook together for the first time. I don’t know why I waited six years to do this with her. It was such a fun experience, and very different than reading out loud to her myself. I was a little concerned that the book was too old for her. It was See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. It deals with some pretty heavy topics from child neglect to schizophrenia to broken and dysfunctional families. So I was a little leery, but she had wanted to listen to a book with me and I didn’t have one ready that was more age-appropriate that she would consent to listen to. She can be very stubborn. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.
I was surprised at the things I learned from the experience! THERE ARE SPOILERS for the book below. Consider yourself warned.
For one thing, kids are remarkably observant about some really grown-up things. When I asked my daughter if anything in the book was confusing or upsetting to her (I was checking if I should stop the book if it was too old for her), she said that she understands that schizophrenia is “a mind disease and Alex’s mom thinks he’s an alien who stole her memories but it’s not her fault, like it’s not GG’s (my granny) fault she can’t remember anything anymore because she has ‘all hammers’ disease. But it was scary when Alex fell off the ladder and got hurt, and when Carl Sagan got lost.” OK then. She could cope with it just fine.
Also, I rediscovered the joy of having a story read to me. Yes, I love audiobooks anyway, but listening to a book with my daughter and seeing her get excited to hear another chapter helped me remember what it was like to have the pleasure of storytime. I think, as adults, we forget what it’s like just to have someone read a story to us and how much fun it can be. It’s too bad we are so often too busy to really engage in the pure delight of listening to a story without interruption, without rushing around and multitasking, listening while you’re doing a bunch of other things. Just sitting and listening to a story for the first time, at the same time as your child, is a unique experience. You get to discover something together instead of always being your child’s expert. I like being someone she can look up to, and I strive to be the person she thinks I am. But it takes a burden off that we as parents often aren’t even aware we are carrying to let your child see that you don’t know everything. Even if it is just that you don’t know how the story will end.
I learned some of my daughter’s interests that I didn’t know about before. Or else the book helped her develop new interests. Either way, it’s rad. She says she loves rockets and wants to build one. This is news to me but now it’s all she talks about. I mean, she’s always expressed an interest in science-y things and space but in a more general way. After listening to this book, she says she wants to be a girl astronaut and send a recording to Mars like Alex did in the book. If she wants to be an astrophysicist when she grows up because of listening to a book, I’m so there for that.
Another awesome thing about going the audiobook route is simply finding a new activity to do with my daughter. She’s super active and I am…not. I have a hard time finding things to do with her that won’t literally kill me. The child has unending energy. She’s not even tired after track practice. Honestly, even her warm-up would do me in. So finding something to do with her that doesn’t result in me falling on my face, bleeding, or so sore I’m unable to move for days is a serious boon. It’s not like I’m hesitant to do physical activities with my kid. But I am still glad we found a fun, easy thing to do together sometimes.
Hearing words spoken aloud also helps fight against reader’s vocabulary, which I wrote about a little bit here. Maybe it doesn’t do so much for being able actually to spell the words, but it is nice on occasion to know how to pronounce them properly as well. This is why I like listening to historical fiction sometimes. It was a freaking revelation to me to finally figure out how Outremer was pronounced, and OMG it is French for “the land beyond the sea,” which Sharon Kay Penman had been writing about forever but it never clicked for me until I actually heard it in the Audible version of her book Lionheart. Derp.
But the very best part? Whether it is a quiet activity like listening to an audiobook or doing something that will make me unable to move for a week, doing something with my kid is literally the best feeling in the world. Did I need to listen to an audiobook with my daughter to learn this? Hell, no. But listening to an audiobook brought me a welcome and unexpected reminder of the various ways in which my child brings me joy.