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Reading can be a family affair

July 14, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

So what have you been reading this summer?

I've been satisfying my interest in history and placating romantic notions thanks to the pen of Gilbert Morris. While working my way through Morris' House of Winslow series, I've journeyed on the Titanic and have felt the terror of an air raid on England during World War I. I've shared tidbits from the storylines with my mechanically inclined husband. We talked about how airplanes were used in World War I first for observation of enemy troops and then for combat.

In between historical events, Morris weaves the life stories of ordinary people. He tells of their struggles, their dreams and their search for answers to the mysteries of life. Plus, there's always a subtle romance woven into the plot. As the mother of an 11-year-old who tends to pick up and read anything within arm's length, I appreciate Morris' wholesome approach to love and marriage. There have been times when my children will say, "Mommy, read to us from your book." With an author like Morris, I don't have to worry that what I'm going to read aloud will be inappropriate or that my son will read something on his own that was not intended for his eyes.

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I read to them from my books, and they read to me from their books. It is incredibly fun to turn reading into a family affair.

My son's favorite author of late is Alexandre Dumas, whose "The Three Musketeers," is being read for the second time at our house this summer. Dumas' words seem to beg to be read aloud, especially if the reader is willing to act out the parts.

At night, while tucking in my son, I sometimes pick a passage at random, such as:

"What diabolical villainy you have performed here," said Porthos, when the officer had rejoined his companions, and the four friends found themselves alone. "Shame, shame, for four musketeers to allow an unfortunate fellow who cried for help to be arrested in their midst! And a gentleman to hobnob with a bailiff!" "... And now gentlemen," said D'Artagnan, without stopping to explain his conduct to Porthos, "All for one, one for all, - that is our motto, is it not?"

There are times I miss the evenings we spent sharing picture books. Yet it is wonderful to see the children reading on their own. Some nights when we're all snuggled in our own beds with our own books, I'll hear one of them giggling at a passage that they've just read. That gives me tremendous joy. Typically, if my 7-year-old is the one giggling, her brother and I end up by her side wanting to know what is so funny.

Lately she's been reading a lot of Junie B. Jones, a precocious kindergartner created by author Barbara Park.

At first glance, I wasn't too thrilled with the series because Junie's speech is riddled with grammatical errors, and her behavior is not what I would expect from my children.

Then I started reading passages with my daughter, and I've changed my mind. My daughter is quick to point out the errors she catches or the behaviors she notices that are unacceptable. It seems to make her feel smart to notice these things. Everyone likes to feel smart, so if that's one thing these books accomplish in the lives of beginning readers, I'm all for it.

The best part of the Junie B. Jones series - which now includes books about Junie's first-grade year - is that it is truly funny.

My favorite passage so far comes from "Junie B. Jones and the Mushy, Gushy Valentine":

"There are eighteen children in our class," said Mrs. (In her thoughts, Junie doesn't use her teacher's last name, just Mrs.) "So that means that everyone needs to bring eighteen valentines."

(Junie asks if she should bring one for the teacher, children she doesn't like, etc., etc.)

"Valentine's Day is a day of friendship for everyone. So every single boy and girl in Room Nine will bring a card for every other boy and girl."

(When the teacher finishes her explanation, Junie B. approaches her desk.)

"Yeah, only I know I have to bring cards to the regular boys and girls," I said real soft. "But I don't have to bring cards to the big, fat stinky heads, do I?"

All of a sudden, Mrs. throwed (Junie's take on threw) her arms in the air.

"Yes, Junie B.! Yes, you do!" she said. "For the last time ... you will bring a card for everyone in Room Nine. Even the big, fat stinky heads."

My daughter thought it was hilarious to imagine a teacher saying "big, fat stinky heads" by mistake. She looked at me questioningly. Somehow I knew what was on her mind.

"No, dear, I have never called my students 'big, fat stinky heads.'"

I could see the relief in her eyes. "That's good, Mommy, because teachers aren't supposed to do that."

Exactly.

I'm glad she was able to catch the irony in that one.




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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