My younger sister and her family live about four hours from me, and because of our schedules we don’t get to visit as often as we’d like. But the stars aligned this weekend, and I was excited to spend some quality time with my nieces and nephews.
My sister homeschools her kids who range in age from seven years to 2 months. (She’s also an Army Reservist and a kickass Usborne Books Consultant. She’s basically Wonder Woman with a baby carrier.) She has instilled in the kids such a love of reading, that at any given time one of those munchkins can be found in a corner pouring over a book. They love to be read to, and even the two-year-old will sit with a completely untypical attention span.
With that being said, I was barely in the door with my bags and getting overdue hugs when they all started clamoring for books. Each of them was chatting about their newest titles, and asking if I would read them. “Can I sit on your lap, Aunt Jen?” “This book has the WRONG fairy tale and it is so funny!” Jessica had to hold them off while I got settled with some much needed coffee and a cooing infant.
After I’d caught my breath and chatted at bit with my sister, I announced we could begin story time. They brought me a stack of picture books and vied for the prime real estate of my lap. We finally decided they would take turns, but I’d be extra careful to make sure they could all see the pictures.
The first book went alright as it was more pictures than words. Kendra and Leah would read the words they knew, and Reuben excitedly pointed to the illustrations. We moved on to the next book, which allowed me to make all manner of funny voices and punctuated sounds. Occasionally I’d misread a word and was corrected by the seven-year-old. “It’s MOMMY BEAR, Aunt Jen!” Oops! I’m getting schooled by a very advanced second grader. Jess was standing behind the couch with the baby, listening in. I was a little embarrassed, but I carried on laughing with the kids at my blunder.
But then it all when to hell.
It was like my eyes suddenly crossed and I forgot you read left-to-right and top-to-bottom. It was a rhyming title and I only seemed to mess up the word at the end of the lines, so nothing I read actually rhymed. I freaked out, closing the book, making excuses for how the illustration placement was confusing me, and I handed it over to Jess. She sat down and finished the book flawlessly and with perfect cadence, as most of the world would. Because, you know, it was a picture book and not the Illiad.
By that point I was mortified.
By the time she finished, the kids seemed to have forgotten and we moved on to playing games and coloring. But I couldn’t shake my failure, and I made excuses for not reading later. I did finally consent when it was naptime and the younger ones were snuggled with me in bed. I figured Leah and Reuben were less likely to catch mishaps in a Beatrix Potter tale, and Jess wouldn’t hear the ones I did gaffe.
I didn’t. It was fine, and they went down without a hitch.
Eventually I got over myself as we moved on to the general chaos that young children yields. But as I was driving home yesterday, the experience returned to haunt me. But then I thought about how my own parents had read to us.
My Mom read the Little House books to us, and we beg her for just “one more chapter, Mommy!” Words are important to my Mom, as is grammar, spelling, articulation, and the whole language arts gambit. Less versus fewer. Good versus well. Don’t leave a dangling participle. So I sincerely doubt she flubbed reading aloud to us.
My Dad on the other hand, always struggled in the speech department. It was what we teased and loved about him. It made Mom crazy, but we kids loved that he mixed his metaphors, and combined different words unintentionally. (Jammies and Pajamas became “Pajammies, but not ironically.) He worked hard to battle this tendency, even joining Toastmasters. But right up until he died, he would say something like “wine-juice.” It was endearing.
My Dad was a career Army Officer and was gone a lot. We didn’t get to spend large amounts of time with him. When he was home, we’d read us the Chronicles of Narnia, over and over. When we were done with the series, we’d just start at the beginning. We’d all cram under our special blanket (affectionately named the “Red Girl”), trying to get as close to Dad as we could, and again, beg for one more chapter. All I remember of those precious times, is that we were together, and that he loved us.
By the time I got home my perspective had shifted. My nieces and nephews are young enough that they won’t remember my reading flaws. They’ll remember that I took them to the bookstore and let them pick out whatever they wanted. They’ll remember that almost every time I come to see them, I bring books with me. They’ll remember that I spent time with them. But most of all, they’ll remember that I love them. And if my cheeks have to burn a little, and if my pride gets stung in the process, that’s okay.
If you are interested in purchasing these great books, you can click on any of the images for a direct link to my sister’s listing. Usborne Books & More has over 2,000 titles that you can search here. Jessica would love you to join her VIP Facebook Group for Book Lovers.