My former blog, MalawiMom, has been inactive for years. When the daily electricity cuts began here in Malawi, and the fuel shortage meant that we couldn’t run the generator, my evenings were spent huddled near candles, trying not to drip wax on the furniture. My computer was not in use, the internet did not work, and my blog died a sudden death. One thing ,however, did grow – the amount of time the family spent reading, both independently and with each other. I’ve read out loud to my kids since they were babies. We love sharing stories. The year of the fuel shortage, I bought the audio book for Unbroken, the harrowing tale of Louis Zamperini’s plane crash and his years in a Japanese prison camp. While the story was dark and sometimes too violent for my youngest daughter, it still became a favourite evening ritual to gather by candlelight in the living room and listen to the audio book on my kindle.
I am sharing a post I had written for my old blog about the value of reading aloud as a family. Maybe we are better situated for this in Malawi since we don’t watch TV, we are often home in the evenings, and life is slower for us than in first world countries. Regardless of why this habit developed, I’m thankful for its benefits and the memories I have of stories shared.
Reading aloud is a great family past time here in the Nitz home. Thankfully it has rubbed off on my kids as well. My oldest daughter read the final Harry Potter book out loud to her younger brother, James, the summer the book came out. They spent countless hours shut up in the bedroom enjoying the story together. This past summer James read all five of the Percy Jackson books out loud to his younger brother . I watched in wonder as they sat for hours on end, one reading, one listening – both engrossed in the story.
It used to be that the whole family would sit and listen to whatever I happened to be reading out loud, but often now it is only my youngest two who stay for the story. When I put down the book after a couple of chapters, there is a fight over who can grab it first. It is the perfect remedy for reluctant readers. Grab their interest by reading aloud and they can barely stand to wait for the next installment. They feel compelled to read ahead on their own.
Having never picked up an Enid Blyton book in my life, I recently got a set of her books for my daughter, Frances. The Twins at St. Clare’s features a group of English girls at an old fashioned boarding school. The plots are dull by modern standards: tales of pranks, midnight parties, attempts to fool teachers, arguments between classmates. And yet, as I sat on Frances’ bed reading the nightly chapter, in would drift the boys. It seems they really did need to know what would happen when Janet played tricks on the teacher and if the O’Sullivan twins would get caught roasting sausages in the music room at midnight ! My youngest son would even secret the book away to read on his own. Who would have thought my most reluctant reader would be interested in a book featuring a bunch of silly girls ?
I hope my children will one day read to their own children and instill not only the love of reading, but the enjoyment of a story shared out loud.