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NO ENTERTAINMENT IS SO CHEAP AS READING; NOR ANY PLEASURE SO LASTING*
When the kids were little, we read to them nearly every night, as part of the bedtime routine. Sometimes Anders would read to them both, sometimes I would, and sometimes each of us would be reading to one child. They picked the books, from the several shelves of picture books we had: English books sent to us from my mom, birthday present books, much-loved and somewhat battered copies from my own collection of children's books, and Swedish books purchased monthly from the 2 mail-order book clubs we belonged to then: Go'Boken and Bonniers Barnbokklubb.

Most of the latter are long-gone now, relegated over the years to flea sale and media sale bags or to charities, but we still have a couple of shelves left: mine, of course, which aren't going anywhere, and one each for the kids, whom I suspect will continue to winnow through them as they grow up and need the room for more mature reading choices.

When I was doing the bedtime reading, and the kids picked a Swedish book, I would simply translate it on the fly as I went. Anders did the same thing when handed an English book, reading it in Swedish. The kids, if they noticed, didn't seem to think it strange, that the same book, on different nights, was read to them in different languages. The story, after all, was the same; the pictures what drew them in and illustrated the story being spoken above their heads.

The only time we ran into trouble was with poetry and rhyming books, and Anders, after several stumbling attempts, declared that if they wanted Dr. Seuss, they'd have to ask Mama to read it!

As they grew, so did the books they chose. Sometimes I actually got to choose the books, and as we moved into chapter books, we read several of the Narnia books, the first three Oz stories, Mrs Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, The Hobbit, and countless other excellent tales. A few years ago, however, bedtime reading by me sort of dropped out of the routine: too many activities, later lights-out, their desire to use the time up until they had to be in bed for their own pursuits and pastimes. It made me sad to think that the days of reading aloud were already over, though I was at least heartened to know that both of them continued to read on their own in bed after being kissed goodnight.

Several months ago, at one of the AWC book group meetings, while we were discussing Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, a guest one of the members had invited along, who is only in Sweden for 6 months for a research project at Lund University, told us about the book group back home that she and her daughter, now 14, belonged to for the past several years. It was a mother-daughter book group, and the girls chose the books. She said it actually worked really well, though the mothers did occasionally have to put up with reading choices that were less than...optimal, shall we say (Babysitters's Club, anyone?).

It struck something in me: maybe reading WITH my kids didn't need to be a thing of the past...maybe this was a way that I could share more beloved books with my children. I asked them both what they thought about the idea of us trying to start a new AWC activity: a parent-child book group, where the kids and the parents could choose the books together, read them either together or separately and then get together with other kids and their parents to talk about the books (bonus: all in English!) They both thought it sounded like fun, and were open to the idea, so I went ahead and started planning.

Martin didn't really care which book we chose for the first time out but Karin, who is much less of a natural reader than he is, was a bit unsure. I suggested she look through all the books in the young adult & children's collection in the playroom and see if there was something there that caught her attention. She pulled out a high fantasy story by Diana Wynne Jones (whom I adore) but after we talked about it a little bit, agreed that it might not be the best choice to entice other kids and moms to participate. I had a flash of inspiration then, and suggested Watership Down.

This was a book that my sister and I had devoured and fallen in love with when we were approximately the same ages as Martin and Karin are now. I was trying to figure out how to choose a book that would appeal to a wide range of ages, which I think will ultimately be the hardest part of this type of activity, and had tentatively settled on limiting the group to children aged 8-14. I still have some concerns that an 8-year-old and a 14-year-old might have very different tastes and levels when it comes to books, but the pool of children that I'm drawing from are mostly children who are growing up bilingual in Sweden and English isn't necessarily their best or even first language, especially when it comes to reading, so I figure that will even the playing field a little bit.

Even if Watership Down probably falls on the more advanced side of this scale, I figured that older kids can read it themselves, and younger kids can be read to. It's a well-known classic and fairly easy to find, even here in Sweden, and it's available in English in the libraries as well. I have a very battered, much-read old paperback copy and after looking it over, both kids agreed that it sounded interesting.

I put the activity up on the AWC website, but still have to "announce it," as it were, since the official new edition doesn't get published until tomorrow night. However, the kids were excited about getting started so we jumped the gun by a few nights and since they wanted me to read it aloud to them, we're already through chapter 7.

I hadn't forgotten how much fun it is to read aloud. Even if it's, ultimately, slower than reading by yourself, storytelling on that level adds another dimension of excitement and suspense to a book that's hard to find any other way. The best compliment I get, as a reader to my kids, is the plea, when I've come to the end of a chapter, to read "just one more, Mom!"

*Title from a quote by Lady Montagu, 1752
 happy
mood: happy
music: Nerina Pallot—Everythings Illuminated


Comments

I just started reading chapter books to Isabel (she turns 6 this summer) and I'm enjoying it immensely.
I find myself reading "just one more" more often than not and she can easily persuade me.

We're on the third Little House book at the moment and I foolishly started reading another book to her (a Swedish one, Kulla-Gulla) and now she's a bit conflicted about which one to read.

What is Watership Down called in Swedish?

Also - I find it a bit difficult to read to both kids at once, because Sofia is so young she's not really gotten into chapter books yet and Isabel finds it disruptive when Sofia's there.

How did you deal with that? (I think I remember you have about the same age difference as we do - 3 years)

We read Karin's book first, usually, and then she would wander away when she was bored :) and go get into bed. When she was still that small, we were reading separately, so one of us had Karin and the other Martin, most of the time.

I'm not sure what Watership Down is in Swedish, but it's by Richard Adams if that helps.

From Megsie

I have been trying to get a mother/daughter book club going since Christmas. Sarah came home from school and wanted to start one on her own, but it didn't work out. Then another mom at Dance said that she (and her first grade daughter) is in a book club with other moms/daughters. They have a whole structure which she emailed me. Now, I think we are going to do it as an optional activity for Girl Scouts. We are still figuring it out though. I can't wait!

As for the bed-time reading, we are still going strong. Each child has a book of their own choosing (although sometimes I help them choose) that I read to them in bed. Jeff and I used to try and share the book, but that didn't work, so he reads a different book to them. We each go in to each kid's room to read. It gives us guaranteed one-on-one time with each kid. I love it! And right now Sarah and I are reading "There is a Boy in the Girls Bathroom" by Louis Sachar and I have never read it. I keep wanting to go steal it out of her room to see what happens!

I would love to hear more about your parent/child bookclub! I hope it turns out to be as much fun as it sounds!

Re: From Megsie

Do you have to start bedtime routine super early in order to get reading time in for each of you with each kid?? We have to start half an hour early with ours!

I love the idea of a parent/child reading group.
It's finally taken some time for Lukas to get it down but now he's choosing to read on his own and do that in the car, before bed, etc for pleasure. It makes my heart sing.

We're still able to read to them and Peter just read Bröderna Lejonhjärta to them because Lukas' Swedish isn't good enough for that kind of reading. Now Pete's reading The Fantastic Mr Fox (Dahl) in Polish to both kids. Linnea is getting the REAL Winnie the Pooh in Swedish from me.

I can't wait until my kids can tackle the books you named. It's a gift you're sharing with them.

Do you know I've never read The Fantastic Mr Fox? That's just wrong, especially considering how much I love Roald Dahl!

(Anonymous)

What a great idea for the book club. I can imagine that it will increase Karin's joy in reading. But- I want to know- did Anders make it home yet?
Love, Lizardmom

Yes, Mom! See, there's a reason for you to be on Facebook! :D

He got home Friday night :)

What a great idea!

I am really dreading the day, when my sister's kids are all too old to want me to read to them. Sometimes I feel rather like the book-reader equivalent of poor old Puff the Magic Dragon, as each child in succession transitions to reading on their own, and no longer snuggles up to me with book in hand, asking, "Will you read this to me?"...

When I was in college, my sophomore year, the girls on my floor organized a reading aloud group. There were 10 or so of us up in the RA's loft, reading A Wrinkle in Time to each other. It was awesome.

For some reason, I've long forgotten why, HulaMom read to a couple of prepubescent HulaKids before bed. We got to pick the books, and we curled up in her bed, and listened. She has a fine reading voice, and I remember thinking we were too old for such things, but being secretly really happy to be there.

Karin and Martin will remember this for a long time. Maybe forever. Happy reading to all of you!

I wonder if I can talk my mom into reading aloud for ME when we're home in the states this summer? :D

(Anonymous)

Probably only if LizardMom gets to pick the book....or you might be allowed to sit next to the Grandkids! :0 Love, Lizardmom

If all else fails, you could climb in bed with HulaMom. She'll read to ALL of you! ;)

Way to go Liz. What a good idea. (The Book Club)
I have very fond memories of reading to my children and can hardly wait to get started on reading to my grandson.

One of the best things about HAVING kids in the first place! (IMHO)

I second that!!

(Anonymous)

What a great idea! My father never read to me (however he read a lot himself! I remember him in the bath with a book, on the boat with a book, in his chair with a book, in his bed with a book!), however the urge to read must have been built inside my genes (guess so, since my mother loves to read too), because I was always fascinated with words and have always loved reading!

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se

Both my kids read, and they see me reading ALL THE TIME...and the house is full of books. They can hardly escape it :)

(Anonymous)

We've reached chapter book reading now too, and it's one of the pleasures of the evening. Watership Down is a great idea - I'm looking forward to hearing your reading list as it progresses!

julia@kolo

I'm wishing I could choose EVERY book! :D

(Anonymous)

What a wonderful idea!
-Heather

I love the idea of a parent-child book club too! Fortunately, I still have the storytime monopoly in our house (bwahaha), but it won't be too long before my girls are the ages of your kiddos and I'll be wondering how to get them engaged in English literature. Let us know how it all goes!

Read to them in English, as much as you can! There are SO MANY great great books out there. :)

(Anonymous)

Watership Down is Still in my top ten books. :) I think it is a great first choice. Email me your reading group format once you get it off the ground as I would like to help Rachel get one started too. We have talked of it but not done anything.
Seester

Right now, we have just posted it on the AWC website with this info:

Little Big Bookgroup

Enjoy reading? Does it run in the family? We're trying a new activity for both parents AND children, ages 8-15! If you've got a kid that is interested in reading, why not join this new activity and share the fun with your young bookworm? We'll be choosing the books together with the kids and then getting together to discuss them. This activity is for moms OR dads (or both) and for boys AND girls. You may each choose to read the book separately or read it together aloud, whatever works best for you and your child(ren)! Since this is a first attempt at this kind of activity, please note that we may have to adjust planned reading times. Please come to the first scheduled event with ideas for future books!

May 2018
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