Middlest (5) asked me today if we could re-read The Hobbit. We have already re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland this year at his request. Of course, I am well used to reading picture books over and over and over again, but I am so excited to be reading chapter books aloud to him, and there are so, so many great ones out there, that I’m a little reluctant to spend precious reading time on territory we have already explored. I want to forge ahead. Explore new territory. And yes, I confess, tick boxes. The only thing I like better than a lovely list is a list with checkmarks.
Then again, there is the enormous importance of depth as well as breadth. I have nothing in mind except my sons’ enjoyment when we read together. I am not aiming to make them better readers, faster readers, earlier readers, writers of their own books, or future famous authors who will support me in my dotage with their vast income from writing fiction. There’s hockey for that.
No. No ulterior motives. I have a passion, and I want to share it. And how better to love a book than to be repeatedly immersed in its world, its words, its rhythms?
Two other bloggers I follow have written about these joys this week. Kerry Clare quoted a marvelous passage from Pete Sanger:
Every night, after tea, his mother took him on her lap and read to him. It was the moment in his day above all others which was understandable to him, one where he lived in coherent companionship and liberty. There, horses, ducks, rabbits, foxes and other animals talked, had adventures, and were friends. His mother read well. She read slowly and clearly. She let him see the book as she read and since she re-read the same books many times, he came to memorize the story on each page, cued by the illustration on it or on the facing page. And knowing the story before the story was told was security, power, delight and beauty.
Pete Sanger, “Leaping Time” in The New Quarterly 118
And Sarah Henstra writes beautifully about her son’s attachment to known books here. I love her point (made in the context of a discussion about characters from The Hobbit reappearing in The Fellowship of the Ring), about the joy of return:
Dr. Tolkien knows these joys of repetition. He knows the boy-reader’s desire not just to chart new territory but to visit old haunts. … Hearing from old friends offers respite from the relentless quest.
I have promised Middlest The Fellowship of the Ring for our summer reading, when there are longer stretches of time. In the mean time, we will revisit Bilbo, circle back on and pack down our path through the books that I hope will sustain him for a lifetime.