One of the joys of parenthood is reading to your kids. And it’s never too early to start. Curled up with and reading to a freshly bathed and ready-for-bed child or grandchild is not only a wonderful ‘bonding’ experience it also stimulates the child’s imagination, curiosity and expands knowledge and understanding of the world in which they live and will grow up.
My kids loved sitting with me as I read aloud and often embellished stories with additional words, animated voices and actions. Sometimes if my time was limited or I had other things I thought I needed to do, I tried to skip over the odd page of a favourite story so I could finish up and get them off to bed. I could never get away with this tactic with my eldest daughter Frances who – sometimes half asleep – would extract her constantly sucked thumb from her mouth and turn back the page. Ah, the joy of it all.
When grandchildren came along I became a self-appointed story reader and delighted in reading to my first two grandaughters Mairead and Siobhan. I couldn’t wait to introduce the girls to the ‘Hobyahs’ and the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff”. The Hobyahs were a group of fierce gremlin-like creatures that lived deep in a dark forest and terrorised nearby inhabitants. And the younger two Billy Goats gruff were too afraid to cross over a bridge under which lived a mean and scary Troll ‘with eyes and big as saucers and a nose as long as a poker’.
Such story telling was brought to an abrupt end when the girls mum – my daughter Kathleen (by then a prolific reader herself) – admonished me for causing her daughters to have nightmares ‘because of my story telling’. I protested that both stories were in the third grade reader and they had been read to her without any problems. Kathleen then reminded me that by the time children get to grade three they are six or seven – and her girls were only four and three when I started ‘educating’ them.
Chastened, I went back to something more docile – but I steered clear of Goldilocks, Jack in the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel! Is nothing sacred any more?