“You know what, Mama?” the Captain peered up at me over the leaves of his newest book.
“What?” I smiled, knowing any manner of wild, bizarre factoid was likely heading my way. He surprised me with an epiphany instead.
“I like a good book better than a good movie because you can make the pictures in your head look exactly how you want!” He beamed at me mostly in eyebrows, then promptly tucked his nose back into the fold of adventure.
It was a few weeks before Christmas. The Captain (our seven-year-old son) was draped lankily over the couch under the glow of the Christmas tree, deep in the delicious trenches of his 45th chapter book of the year, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I giggled silently to myself as he devoured it. Apparently, Roald Dahl’s messages regarding greed weren’t quite getting through to our son, seeing as how I had presented him with the book that same morning.
Snapping the binding shut in a cloud of confectioner’s sugar, our gloopy glutton declared Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be far superior to both movie versions (my sincerest apologies, Gene Wilder, may you rest in peace) before promptly asking “may I have another book, please?” He may as well have had chocolate all over his face.
My hubby and I do not have all of this thing called parenthood figured out yet. In fact, even as we near eight years into this gig, we both still consider parenting to be the hardest, most befuddling job we’ve ever undertaken. Evenings frequently find us couched in a post-performance, do-you-think-we-handled-that-right debriefing session. We’re constantly reevaluating, adjusting, hoping, praying, and flat-out guessing a lot of the time. Ironically, I never have cared much for science experiments, but here I be . . . in a beaker on a Bunsen burner, just waiting to see day to day if I change color, bubble over, or explode.
As a parent, I often feel like a wad of saltwater taffy on a hook; having my patience, resilience, creativity, and self-control pulled and stretched, pulled and stretched, then slapped back together again just in time. If only I could trade in my salt to become an everlasting gobstopper.
Despite all that, there are four things we’ve done as parents thus far that my hubby and I are both incredibly proud of. (As for everything else in our parenthood journey, well, it remains mostly in blueprint at this point! 😆 )
What we believe we’ve actually done a good job of so far in parenting:
- Rooted our children in a solid foundation of faith, imparting to them a deep and wide understanding of God and Biblical truth and inspiring them to seek their Savior. You can read more about our methods here: Salt-of-the-Earth-Storytime
- Fed our children nutrient-dense food from their first bites, building healthy bodies, nourished minds, and sophisticated palettes. (Well, we’re still working on Miss “It’s-Too-Picy” and her hatred of bell peppers, but we’ll get there.)
- Loved on our kids a LOT, in words and cuddles.
- Sewn into the hearts of our children a truly insatiable appetite for beautiful books and stories of all kinds.
In our home, books are consumed as regularly as meals.
Read-alouds are enjoyed fireside in winter, window-side in spring, garden-side in summer, and cider-side in autumn.
Early mornings often find our kids curled up together beneath something fluffy, giggling behind the delightful binding of some secret world.
Golden afternoons swathe their heads in the glowing pursuit of perusal —faces rosy with enchantment, the turrets of book stacks growing taller around, casting long, lazy foreshadowings of yet another sundown.
Twilights tuck us in under cozy “once upon a times” and sweet “happily ever afters,” ending the day and inviting dreams.
Even being the book-central family that we are, however, our son’s reading burst in 2022 came as a huge surprise to us all! It’s hard to believe that this is the same boy who, two years ago, was struggling to learn to read and reluctant to try. It seems I blinked and something magical happened.
I keep a journal recording each new book read in our home, and a few weeks ago I counted up our boy’s independently read titles for 2022 on a curious whim. I had to count them twice to believe it and yet, I wasn’t the hardest member of the family to convince.
“There’s no way I read 48 chapter books in one year, Mama!” the Captain said adamantly following my big announcement.
So, on New Year’s Day, we started a new tradition together, my son and me. We stacked up all 48 of those chapter books (ok, 47 . . . we’d loaned one to a friend) to take the commemorative photo above. Of course, his head was in it, too! The Captain’s eyes grew wide as we piled up book after book, and, once convinced, he put both hands on his hips, thrust out his chest, and grinned widely. This is his signature proud pose —one of the many little quirks that make him positively irresistible.
Here’s the list of titles in which (according to the Captain himself) there were NO DUDS!
- The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborn (books 1 through 34)
- Treasure Island (abridged Ladybird version)
- Ereth’s Birthday by Avi (part of the Dimwood Forest Series)
- The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
- Frindle by Andrew Clements
- Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
- A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Richardson
- Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
After I’d snapped some pictures of our bookworm, including one with his tongue out and rockin’ the hang loose sign, I smiled and told him how proud I was of him.
His reply made me even more proud than the tower of books beside him.
“It’s really nothing I did, Mama. It’s just cause I have this thing where I have to know what happens next!”
May you have it always, my boy.
So, how did we . . . DO it?
First, what we didn’t do:
- We did not set specific goals for his independent reading.
- We did not employ bribery (reward charts, payouts, or prizes).
- We did not force reading or employ punitive measures (using reading as a timeout).
On the surface, it seems almost as if our son’s relationship with reading has nothing to do with us at all anymore! But of course, that is far from true. Rather, reading has become such an integral component of our family culture we hardly realize sometimes how pervading its flavors.
When something is woven so tightly into the fabric of your days, it can be hard at times to identify the warp —those underlying cords that hold it all together.
Reading in our family isn’t a task, a to-do, a chore, a requirement, or even a goal. Instead, reading in our home has become, book by book, a practice, a routine, a ritual. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. Habits take time and diligence, even happy ones.
Want to make reading a habit in your home?
If you want to ritualize reading in your family, or merely enhance your already readerly home, you may want to check this out . . .
We have some upcoming content that will explore today’s topic in more depth, identifying every habit in our home that has nurtured our children’s deep love for reading and fostered their self-led drive to do so voluntarily!
I’m really excited to share this one with you, friends. Stay tuned! And in the meantime, just keep reading, just keep reading . . .
Thanks ever so much for being here with us! May many beautiful books bless you and your family this year!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~