I have to be honest. I didn't really want to do it. The activity of the day often drains my morning intentions. I don't think this is my own to confess. It is the same for many a father and mother. The task, as it was once put to me, is not one literally. I enjoy reading: history, books on faith and family, and fiction authors that bring two dimensional words on paper and make them come alive with emotion and feeling while placing indelible thoughts and images on our mind.
The issue is, I decided the way to help my daughter in school was not just to enforce a mandated twenty minutes of reading, but to foster a joy of reading. The twenty minute chore was sucking the pleasure out of it for my seven year old. Reading, for her, was met with bouts of tears and frustration rather than the pleasure it should hold. So began the promise made, fed by the inspiration of a young writer, Alice Ozma. “The Reading Promise” made between father and daughter became the novel of their journey. A promise I could never keep, but I would do my best. That initial promise of 100 nights her father made, incredibly, became 3,218. Do the math. The “streak” lasted daily for nine years!
Now, each night after she reads her chapter book of choice, I tuck my daughter in bed and I read to her. We switch back and forth from books I pick: “Charlotte’s Web”, “Because of Winn-Dixie”, “The One and Only Ivan” and her picks, “Staring Jules (as herself)”, “Ramona and Beezus”, and I think you get the idea.
The experiment has been running for some time now, first it was tough, my long days and her apprehension, but as we moved along it became a very special time between us. Something we now look forward to and she actually, “can’t wait to get to bed so her daddy can read to her.” I actually heard those words come from her mouth. The most wonderful experiences have come from this: We talk about the stories, she has questions, and I try to answer them. Her reading has improved. Her writing has improved. Her creativity has improved. Her vocabulary has improved.
Last night, as I finished reading and said goodnight, she asked me, “Dad, you know why I like it when you read to me a bedtime story?” “No, but I would love to hear.” Her answer gave me pause, “It’s like your painting my dreams with words.”
I can’t wait to read to her tonight!