Summer Week: Little Women

Summer Week: Little Women

Since before my firstborn could talk, I’ve read three bedtime stories a night. Actually, my wife has done a fair amount of that reading, and sometimes honored guests (grandparents, aunts and uncles, favored friends) get the privilege, and occasionally the kids’ behavior has been so horrid that they’re told to go straight to sleep, but when I say that I read my children three bedtime stories a night, and that I have for years, it’s basically the truth. I am the story reader of record in the family, and while my wife is also a bookish person, I’m more of what you would charitably describe as book obsessed. A bibliophile. I like what books look like on a shelf and stacked on tables, I feel a peace settle on me when I enter a library or bookshop, I can’t get enough of their smell, and—most of all—I love the words inside: how they read, how they sound, what they mean, why they mean what they mean, what we can learn from them, what they’re telling us, what they’re not telling us.

I read to my children just about every night because I know that children who are read to are more likely to become solid readers, to gain advanced language skills, to be wonderful people (right?). I read to my children because I work in an office all day and want to spend time close to them in the evening. I read to my children because I want them to associate time spent around books to time spent around me, in a safe, cozy, loving environment. I read to my children because books are important to me, and my children are important to me, and I want my children to recognize the importance of books, as well as their own importance.

I read to my children because there are so many stories I want to share with them.

I read to my children because I can’t not read to my children.

Though most of this reading has been picture books and short chapter books, we’ve recently made the jump to longer books. We started “Little Women” some time back, but recently took a break from that to blast through “The Phantom Tollbooth,” which proved to be a great choice. My girls would chant “Milo and Tock! Milo and Tock!” as they were getting ready for bed each night we spent exploring Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and all points between.

We’re back to “Little Women” again, which the girls are enjoying, though in a different way. There are a lot of large and archaic words and terms, and my now-5-year-old secondborn asks a lot of clarifying questions, which is fine and understandable, but also breaks up the flow a bit. I don’t mind. Much. Still, I wonder how much they’re catching.

We recently read the chapter in which Amy maliciously burns up her sister Jo’s handwritten stories, and my girls were scandalized. Perhaps forgetting their own daily squabbles, they shook their heads, tight-lipped, at the sibling-vs.-sibling battle. But when Jo decides to ignore her petulant sister and refuses to forgive her, my daughters gasped out loud. Both of them. Even if other stuff is going over their heads, they recognized the seriousness of this broken relationship.

I’m looking forward to many more books to come. My firstborn is already reading “Little House in the Big Woods” on her own for a summer book challenge, so I’m thinking we might try “The Hobbit” next.

What were your favorite childhood reads?
What are you reading or looking forward to reading with your kids?


7 thoughts on “Summer Week: Little Women

  1. Carleen Butterfield

    Until at least fourth grade, our teachers read to us for 15 minutes after lunch. We put our heads down and closed our eyes. It helped us to relax and be ready for our afternoon lessons and I will always believe it helped us to develop visualization skills. I think that we were asked questions when the reading of the chapter was finished. Then we practiced penmanship.

    They read us “The Bobsey Twins” and Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle–who had a magical solution for every childhood mis-deed or issue. Those weren’t classic literature, but I do remember the experience. I think that we were read “The Orange Books” which were a large collection of biographies as well as some of the other Louisa May Alcott. books.

    Need to get a good book program for this summer. We go to the friends of the library book store and buy the books for 50 cents. That way we don’t have to worry about library fines.

    When Maddie was here for spring break, her main wish was to go to Barnes and Noble. She just loved the small of the place! She wouldn’t let me read even a paragraph of her new books until she had read them–somehow I would take away the magic of the newness of her own books. Of course I honored her request.

  2. I can’t remember ever being read a bedtime story, though as an Aunt, I got badgered to read to my nephews.
    I was however a librarian in senior school and still an avid reader. Childhood classics for me as well as Little Women were anything by E Nesbitt, What Katy Did and Did Next, Heidi, Black Beauty , and a smashing fairy story called Where the Rainbow Ends which sadly is no longer in print and my illustrated copy got lost years ago.

  3. Jenette Jeffery

    Little Women is great, and I highly recommend going through all of Alcott’s children’s stories (there are adult ones available 😉 ). As much as I loved Little Women and its sequels, the Eight Cousins/Rose in Bloom series was also excellent and a great way to discuss genetics and 19th century and earlier family values (spoiler: she marries her cousin). They may enjoy the magical nature of Beatrix Potter. I also read all of the Caldecott and Newberry awards books, many of which were very good.

  4. I was read to almost every night by my parents (Thank you Mom and Dad). It works Ryan, it does make your kids into wonderful people – look at me! (Just ask our mom.)

    I remember Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Yearling (my mom cried reading it), and many Hardy Boys. I continued on with The Hatchet, White Fang, The Call of the Wild… too many to remember.

  5. By the time I went to primary school I already read independently, so my books I have been read are a little bit lost in the clouds of the early childhood past. But I liked fairy tales – not only the Grimm-Variety, but the tales from other romantic fairy tale authors – like Andersen (author of the little Mermaid). Or Bechstein, who changed some folklore tales and published them. Do not know, though, if those ever made it “over the pond”.
    I also liked Astrid Lindgren. There are English translations for some of HER stories! She is way more than just the author of Pippi Longstocking.

  6. My folks read to us almost every night. I remember them reading: Mother Goose Stories and nursery rhymes, Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys; Little House on the Prairie (I read the rest of the series myself); all the Anne of Green Gables books; all the Narnia books; the Hobbit; A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I think my dad even started us on A Wizard of Earthsea. I know they read more than those to us, but those are the ones that stick out in my memory. Should I eventually have children, I will read to them every night. I will add to that list (and this is a suggestion for you with your kids): So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane (and all the rest of the books in that series), as well as most of the picture books from The Barefoot Book series (for when they’re younger – my favorites being Brother and Sister Tales, Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, Grandmothers’ Stories and The Lady of Ten Thousand Names).
    I’m so glad you’re reading to your kids. 🙂

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