Read Me A Story: How Being Read To Shaped My Life

Mother reading to her children
Mother reading to her children | Source

When I'm depressed, feeling that debilitating worthlessness that comes of non-productive fatigue, illness, or disappointment, God generally sends in an inspirational messenger to boost me back into awareness of my great good fortune in this life. As I thought about this I began to realize that most of my early "messengers" or role models were actually characters out of books and some are from books that were read aloud to me.

Instead of useless boo-hooing over my lack of resources or some other minor pitfall, I'm shown what blessings there are for me and others if I just put up with certain personal deficits and focus on all I have to be grateful for. This is the more politically correct way of stating, "there are a whole lot of others worse off than you are," with the unspoken addition of, "who seem to be doing better than you are. Figure it out!"

The "can-do" spirit of these others has helped to jog me out of many a funk. In some cases, however, just recognizing that there are others who are less advantaged than I am seems to shame me into appreciation for my lot in life.

Here are the 'stand-out' characters from books who walked along with me during the first few years of life:

I grew up in the middle of Saskatchewan-- and if you pulled out Hudson Bay and the Eastern provinces collapsed in to take its place, you can see where my birthplace is actually about the middle of Canada...
I grew up in the middle of Saskatchewan-- and if you pulled out Hudson Bay and the Eastern provinces collapsed in to take its place, you can see where my birthplace is actually about the middle of Canada...
Grandpa reading and making accommodation for different "listening" styles...
Grandpa reading and making accommodation for different "listening" styles... | Source
The New Grandpa reads from a tablet?
The New Grandpa reads from a tablet? | Source

Early Years

I was born in the middle of land-locked Saskatchewan in the middle of Canada in the middle of the last century (1950) near the middle of November. I was not a middle child, but born the eldest child of an eldest child and an eldest son. My father had only one older sibling, and she did not marry or have children for five years after I was born, so, yes, I was the firstborn grandchild on both sides of two large extended families.

When I feel glum and hard-done-by I just have to cast my mind back to life with those people who cared enough to read aloud to me from books that may seem maudlin and preachy now, but expressed so much feeling small children can relate to. No, there was really no "snuggle time" that I can remember in my childhood-- but sitting near the story teller, nestled in their fine, expressive reader's voices was the next best thing to cuddling in my experience.

My father's parents, Bill and his wife, Mary Flatt Rempel, lived on the farm my Dad had grown up on until they "moved to town" when I was in my teens. My visits to their farm provided peace and solid feeling of connection to "the land" and those that farmed it. There was never any yelling or bossing around, as I recall. There was, instead, a long broad lawn edged by hardy prairie fruit trees (varieties of plums and crabapples that could survive -40F winters) and flowers like gladioli and lilies. There was a small wooded ravine with a tiny log-house that had been my aunt's playhouse. Grandma had a big garden with exotic vegetables like asparagus and of course lots of peas, beans, and root vegetables. At that time, they had no livestock so a scene that would usually be dominated by a barn was taken up by an impressive grain-storage elevator painted the same creamy wheat colours as the house. My stays at the farm involved lots of rambling about forming little stories for my own amusement.

And in the house there were lots of children's books on shelves. My Grandma had been a school ma'rm and a mother, and her sister, my great-aunt, Miss Jean Fraser Flatt, had been the first in that family's generation to attain a university graduate degree, and in the years of my childhood she worked as a librarian for the City of Victoria, BC. The children's books were a spin-off of those family circumstances.

"Beautiful Joe" by Margaret Marshall Saunders
"Beautiful Joe" by Margaret Marshall Saunders

Beautiful Joe

Grandma read to me from a book called "Beautiful Joe"1 before I started to school. Beautiful Joe was a mutilated, abused dog who was rescued by a lovely, nurturing family. This book is purportedly based on "a true story" and I think has at least some small influence over my having chosen social work as my life career. I'm not sure if I was around enough to have had the entire book read to me, but I certainly have a clear remembered empathy for that poor mistreated underdog and was absolutely thrilled, through a serendipitous "recycled" gift exchange at a work Christmas party, to receive a copy of that book. I am currently reading it aloud to my own granddaughters who respond in much the way I did to this classic tale of abuse and rescue.

Eeyore and Others

Eeyore, Pooh and Christopher Robin, as illustrated by E. H. Shephard. Public Domain.
Eeyore, Pooh and Christopher Robin, as illustrated by E. H. Shephard. Public Domain.

At home with my younger brother and parents I recall my Dad reading aloud from the Winnie-the-Pooh books2 to the flicker of a coal oil lamp. My Dad did such a wonderful job of imitating poor sad Eeyore (complete with lots of braying) that of all the characters-- and there is no small sum-- my heart was most drawn to that little down-in-the-dumps donkey. I was disappointed that he didn't have a bigger part, just a few bits of choleric relief. Rather disturbingly, I would say that my father and I probably shared Eeyore as a totem in those dim misty farmhouse days. I like to think that in his 50s Eeyore discovered some joy in his life.

If you are curious about what character from Winnie-the-Pooh you are, you can find out by taking this test.

Tom and Maggie Tulliver, characters in "The Mill On The Floss"
Tom and Maggie Tulliver, characters in "The Mill On The Floss"

After we finished the Winnie-the-Pooh books I remember my father cracking open "Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot and reading aloud from this.

My mother sobbed throughout (my strongest recollection of the book) and given that it was on my reading list in my first year as an English major at University, I think that we small children were merely present because of the close quarters in which we lived.

I certainly don't think the experience of listening to a reading that we didn't have any understanding of did us any harm. In fact, throughout our school years teachers commented on our advanced vocabularies.

Were You Read To By A Parent, Grandparent or Other "Parent" Figure?

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3 Tips For Reading Aloud

There are piles of tips online for making your reading aloud experience a happy, joyful time together. These are the 3 that I want to suggest to folks who haven't tried this yet but want to get started or re-started:

  1. If possible, establish reading aloud as a routine right from the get-go. Commit to that time.
  2. Read anywhere, but somewhere "without screens" in sight would be helpful to cement the commitment to a special, recurring time together with no technical distractions.
  3. While reading is the base, cuddling, cheering, time-out for questions, and other interactions, will aid learning, and more important, build the precious relationships among you, your child(ren), and books... forever!

**Above Tips are from a mix of sources online and from my own experience as someone read-to and someone who read to / reads to children and grandkids.

Search on the Web and include Youtube and other video communities for a variety of excellent demonstrations and tips. The following video featuring actor John Lithgow is a short but valuable look at how simple but rich the experience of reading aloud can be!

Books I Was Read From

  1. Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders. The story of the dog cruelly mutilated by its owner was introduced to Saunders when she visited Meadford, Ontario in 1892. She set the story in a fictional location in Maine but in Meadford there is a monument to this dog's (and book's) memory. This Canadian classic was published as a commemorative 100th Anniversary edition in 1992 by The Ginger Press, Incorporated, 848 Second Ave. E., Owen Sound, Ontario http://gingerpress.com/
  2. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne This series of illustrated stories was written by Milne to read to his son, Christopher Robin. The books featured Christopher Robin and his toys, animated, and most notably his stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, a stuffed donkey named Eeyore, and various other stuffed animals. The books my father read to me were from the pre-Disney movie and associated book-lets. Winnie-the-Pooh continues to be a popular reading choice and is widely available online and in stores.
  3. The Mill on the Floss is the third major novel by the English author George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans). Eliot developed a method of psychological analysis in her novels that has stood as a model for modern novels. You can read this engaging story through various free ebooks available at the Gutenberg Project online.

John Lithgow Talks About Reading Aloud to Children

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Comments 27 comments

RachaelOhalloran profile image

RachaelOhalloran 2 years ago from United States

I believe reading aloud to children grooms them to love books. At least it did for my five children. This was a wonderful peek into your childhood and the fond memories of favorite books. Voted up and shared. :)


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you for dropping in Rachel! I'm guessing that reading aloud to five children would make you an expert in this field! How uplifting to know that there are parents like you committed to grooming their children to love books throughout their lives! Thank you!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I read aloud to my daughter (in character voices) since she was about six months old -- for entertainment, my own sanity, and her development. As she got older we would stop and talk about "process" questions like what she thought of the plot, what characters were thinking or feeling, symbolism, whether she liked the way the author paired this character with that one, etc. It developed her critical analysis skills. Her vocabulary is deep and complex, and as a young teen she now chews through books like I do. Reading enriches and nourishes and the resources can be free! (I took the quiz, too, and I'm Rabbit.)


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hello there FlourishAway! So happy you stopped by to make some comments here-- I admire what you write in that regard almost as much as I enjoy what I've read of your hubs! I'm thinking that your daughter's teachers have found it a joy to work with her, your having already helped her develop so many of the skills one needs for school success and high EQ-- by committing to that early reading aloud! Congratulations, and thanks again for stopping by to share that! ~Cynthia


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

It is so vital to read aloud to children; it sets them up for life and usually turns them into avid readers themselves.

I was read to from an early age, I love reading, I read to my children and I read to my grandchildren who also love books and have loads of their own.

My childhood ones were Winnie-the-Pooh, Swallows and Amazons, Carbonel (less well known). Even now I love reading children's books, especially Goodnight Mr Tom, Moondial and re-reading those already mentioned.

As a retired English teacher and teacher of dyslexics I cannot emphasise enough the importance of reading.

Love this!

Ann


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hi Ann,

I am so thrilled to read testimonies from you and others about the impact that having been read to has upon those who are privileged to be part of this act. I also love reading children's books. I adored the pioneer books of Laura Ingalls Wilder and almost every book that Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote. I would love to read through those books with my granddaughters and will maybe have that opportunity. In the meantime, their parents also read to them, so they are well taken-care of, and I love that! Thank you for dropping by, and your lovely comments! I'm heading over to 'your place' now to read something you have written! ~Cynthia


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a lovely hub about an important topic. I don't remember being read to as a child, but I what I do remember are the stories of his own creation that my father told me before bedtime. I absolutely loved hearing about the adventures of Lucy and Johnny that he made up himself. My father may not have stimulated my interest in particular books, but he did stimulate my interest in stories and the world of imagination.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

AliciaC, thank you so much for coming by and sharing that sweet story-telling gift of your Dad's. The benefits of story-telling are about the same as read-aloud-- and I would also say there is the added benefit of 'immediacy'-- the story is being told for you alone, at least at that time-- the parent will have direct eye-contact in a way that a book-reader doesn't. In any case, the outcomes seem to be the same. Thank you for your comments! Now I'm headed over to 'your place' to read some more of your writings! ~Cynthia


edzed 2 years ago

Reading aloud is a great thing I discovered with my own children. Children are more likely to connect with the story and the person reading and to listen and pay attention


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thanks for your comments edzed-- you're right about all the connections being made and I am happy you discovered this by reading to your own kids!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Parents and grandparents who read to you establish a great habit which lasts for a lifetime. You were blessed (still blessed) with a happy childhood. Thanks for sharing.

BTW, whenever I think of Saskatchewan, I remember the Melashenkos.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

My Daddy read children's books to me at bedtime, and I'm sure that made me love books and become an early reader.

I read to my sons and they both became good readers, too.

Once you open up the possibility of discovering the worlds of possibilities that books offer, you influence children to become learners.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Ms. Dora, Thank you for your comment on my childhood having been blessing for being a happy one-- I do think, the older I become, that it must have been quite happy and that I was indeed blessed. And the Melashenkos are one of our wonderful exports! My friend Louise (the M. sister) lived to be over a 100 years old. She was a most impressive farmer woman who had done everything from keeping bees to midwifery (including helping to deliver one of her own siblings, I believe). She had such a fertile garden that her children would take tomato sandwiches to school in June, the product of the volunteer tomatoes from the year before that Louise produced by throwing the slops from her tomato canning directly into her garden (today we call it compost?) And, yes, at one of the family members' anniversaries I had the opportunity to hear the older generation sing together... it was very beautiful. Thanks for bringing up those memories MsDora!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hi Rochelle-- thanks for dropping by!

I agree with you-- and so would the research-- that children who are read to become good readers. I also believe that children who are read to probably develop a life-long bond with the parent who did the reading, and I consider that as important as (if not more so than) the reading skills. And I believe we go on to read to our children because the closeness we experienced to our reader-parent is something we desire to pass down as a legacy to the following generations. I am so excited when I hear my son reading to his kids... he sounds so much like my Dad that it is quite uncanny! Thank you for your comments! I'm heading over to "your place" now to read some of your writing! ~Cynthia


Kerry Sauriol 2 years ago

Sigh..I have been a tad lazy with my reading out loud..especially for the poor third kid. Not nearly enough. I do enjoy it too...just been so tired by the end of the day and our unorganized life. I also wish they would want to listen to the books of my childhood. I did read Peter Pan to them. And when I do read...they all settle down to listen, no matter the age.


Barbara Doduk profile image

Barbara Doduk 2 years ago

I read to my daughter every night. I love story time. I think it was what inspired me to write my own stories. Even in elementary school I would go read to the younger class rooms for story time. I loved reading aloud. Making voices for characters. It is so fun. :)


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hi Barbara, thanks for stopping by and commenting, and hey, WELCOME to Hubpages! I think you are going to enjoy the community on here and I look forward to reading your stories!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I stopped by to see your response to my mention of the Melashenkos. I'm glad I did. That Louise was an exceptional woman. Thanks for sharing her story.

I first met the Dad Melashenko in 1970 (in Bermuda) where he was the singing evangelist for Pastor Byron Spears in Somerset. I fell in love with him and took home his music on the old LP 33 records. My turn for memories!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

ah yes, Joe, right? He was Louise's brother. I also had the opportunity to hear him sing a few times while he still had that wonderful rich voice! Thank you MsDora for sharing back!


SkyRhino profile image

SkyRhino 2 years ago from Tucson, AZ

Yes. Being read to fueled my love of reading. What's more, as I got old enough to read, myself, my parents and grandparents asked ME to read to them. It was an ego boost for a 5 year old to tell Grandma a story. It made me feel so big and important!

Reading to my own daughter was a treasured part of being a mom. Our favorite book was "When We Were Very Young," by A.A. Milne. It is a book of his poetry.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hi SkyRhino

Thanks for sharing your experience with being read to, and getting the rush of reading to adults as a youngster! Yes, that is an understated bonus of the reading child with adults around who care enough to encourage that wonderful gift. I love to hear my granddaughters read to me, and the older one is also very excited to show me how fast she can type on the computer keyboard- lol (she's 8). "When We Were Very Young" is a very sweet book, one that I discovered as an adult, and one that I think I shall read again-- thanks for the tip! ~Cynthia


Besarien profile image

Besarien 2 years ago

When my son was small I read to him every night before his bed-time. By the time he was four, we were taking turns doing the reading. My son is 14 now. We still like to read to one another. Great hub! It took me back to some wonderfully memories from my own youth too. My father was the one who read to us the most. He was excellent at it- did sound effects and different voices for different characters. Since I was the youngest I got to sit in his lap and follow along. No better way to learn. I doubt there is a writer here who didn't get read to plenty when they were little.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you Besarien for your testimony to the power of being read to-- lovely that you also shared some beautiful memories of sitting on your father's lap as a wee child and reading along! Precious! I have heard recently that reading for ten minutes out loud (even to yourself) is very good for preventing cognitive disabilities as one ages! I really appreciate your comments! ~Cynthia


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 23 months ago from the short journey

So glad you shared your experience of being read to so others can better understand the need to read to children along with great tips. Reading to my children are times I enjoy remembering now. I plan to read a book out loud to make a recording for a relative in a nursing home. She can listen to it anytime she wants then and I'm hoping she will enjoy it.


techygran profile image

techygran 23 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

RTalloni:

Thank you for your kind words. I do truly appreciate my father and grandmother and various teachers for their reading aloud to me as a child. I am so thrilled to know that our son reads to his daughters, as does their mommy. And your plan to do a recording for a relative in a nursing home is very sweet and I'm certain will be extremely well-received! ~Cynthia xx


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 22 months ago from Texas

I loved being read to is a child, and it made me the reader and writer in person that I am today. One of the biggest disappointments of my life was the time when I took a book to my father and asked him to read it to me and he refused saying that I could read to myself now. I was very disillusioned I always thought that he enjoyed reading to me as much as I enjoyed being read to, and it still makes be very sad to think of that.

Today I truly love listening to audiobooks read by good readers. One of the best is Lisette LeCat who reads the Number One Ladies Detective agency novels. The Gutenberg project audiobooks of the Sherlock Holmes stories are also very excellent, and Martin Clifton who has read a number of books for LibraVox.org is also a fabulous reader.

Voted up an interesting! :)


techygran profile image

techygran 22 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

justmesuzanne:

Thank you for dropping by and for your vote! I appreciate that very much. I also enjoy listening to Audiobooks, particularly on long road trips. I will definitely look into the referrals to the audio readers you suggest, and I too would like to recommend LibraVox.org to anyone reading this-- as a listener, and if you are a good outloud-reader, as a reader volunteer! All the best, Cynthia

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