by Elise Seyfried
“Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away…” — From “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown
And so began the sleepytime ritual of five children of a certain age. They would toddle over to the bookshelf, pull down the volume of choice and snuggle up for a story (or three). I will never forget the coziness and special-ness of those moments. I introduced them to the classics —Rosemary Wells, Dr. Seuss, Arnold Lobel — and loved every second of the telling. Not so much? When they would haul over the humongous Richard Scarry book of “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go,” endlessly poring over the big pages looking for the hidden little character Goldbug.
Even worse was when they went on a Disney book jag. (Note to whoever penned these over-long and atrocious treatments of Walt’s movies: “101 Dalmatians” was 101 pages at least: I sometimes hid your books and pretended to have lost them!) But by and large, bedtime reading with the kids was a heavenly way to end the day.
I figured once they were in school, that would be that. They’d learn to read and would need me no more. But (whew) they still loved being read to. Daughter Julie in particular had a favorite favorite series, “Junie B. Jones,” the adventures of a precocious (some might say obnoxious) young lady. I used to “do” all the different character voices, and for some reason Jules was charmed by my rendition of Junie B. So much so that she asked me to come into her class and read from those books right up through 3rd grade. Don’t know if the other tykes got quite the charge that she did out of it, but everyone was always very nice, and they asked me to come back soon with more tales of Junie and friends.
Ever since I was pretty young myself, I always LOVED to read aloud. Vivid memories include reading “Gone with the Wind” in its entirety to my sisters (then ages 10 and 13), sitting on the back deck of our house the year we lived in Massachusetts. Took weeks. Lost my voice in the end. Well worth it.
When our son, Evan, was a freshman in high school, he began to get serious, just about daily, headaches. It was hard for him to concentrate on schoolwork at all, reading in particular. I felt for him but wasn’t sure what I could do to help. Finally one day, it dawned on me: read to him! And so began another marathon “Gone with the Wind” performance (Southern accents and all). Every night, I opened that much-loved book and began to tell the next chapter of the story. My poor kid lay on the sofa in pain but listening, always listening. As I would discover, daughter Rose and son PJ were listening, too, in an adjacent room. When the indomitable Scarlett intoned, “Tomorrow is another day!” I closed the volume reluctantly. I knew it marked the end of my read-a-thons with my children, and it was a melancholy moment.
Today, they are all avid readers, devouring the works of Dostoyevsky and Hemingway as well as a wide array of newer authors. So I guess my job was done well enough. But for years I yearned for another little one to introduce to the wonderful world of books and reading.
And now my precious baby grandson, Aiden Jacob, is here at last. He is growing so fast, and I love every part of helping to care for him. (Well, maybe not the diaper changing, but the rest? Great!) In no time at all, Aiden will be old enough to cuddle with his nana as once again I reach for “Goodnight Moon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The next generation of readers is on its way, and I simply cannot wait.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children as well as of her self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, based on her life as a mom and church worker. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com. (Also from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bn.com, although they add an extra charge.)