Childhood Remembered with Laura Sassi: The Joy of Reading Together (and a Challenge)

When Rebecca J. Gomez, founder and creator of Read, Discuss, Do!, asked me if I'd be part of the team here, I was thrilled. I love the Read, Discuss, Do mission to help families and educators thoughtfully extend story time through the simple three-part formula of reading a story, using that story to spark conversation, and then taking action through a meaningful activity.

But, for me, the connection runs deeper because reading aloud together was foundational to my own reading experience as a child. Indeed, some of my earliest and best childhood memories are of sitting in my mother’s lap as she read aloud to me from A. A. Milne’s 
When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. 

For those of you unfamiliar with A. A. Milne, he is a beloved British author from the 1920s.  Probably best known for his Winnie the Pooh books, he also a well-regarded children’s poet and the books my mother read to me were his poetry books. Within the slender pages of the books, each poem is presented in simple black and white typeset paired with a tiny illustration - very different from today’s colorful picture books and poetry collections.  But I loved being read from them and looking back my brilliant mother was well ahead of her time in the #ReadDiscussDo department.  Here’s what I mean:

READ. During our special mother/child story time she would share with me -in small, but savory tidbits- a poem or two at a sitting.  I loved the sound of her voice and the rhythm and rhyme of the words. 

DISCUSS. After reading, we’d ponder each poem together. For example, after reading A. A. Milne’s delightful “Waiting at the Window” from Now We Are Six, about entertaining oneself on a rainy day by watching rain drops race each other down the windowpane, my mother might ask me how I felt about rainy days and if I’d ever felt rain drips trickling or noticed them in any way. 

DO. Then we’d do something such as pick two rain drops from our window pane and watch them race. (I also did this at bath time. I’d sit in the tub until the very last drop had gone down the drain and as those last drops were trickling down, I’d name them and predict which would get there first.)  All this inspired by the simple act of reading and interacting with a poem with a loving adult.


Similar magic happened with others of  Milne’s poems including the following all from 
When We Were Very Young: “The King’s Breakfast” which was my introduction to marmalade,  “Disobedience” which was my first introduction to the shocking notion that perhaps mothers needed time to themselves too, and his delightful poem “Happiness” which inspired much puddle stomping. 

Curious about his poetry?  Here’s author James Stevenson reciting “Disobedience” almost as well as my mother did:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0rfPUYCE7Y

When I outgrew sitting in my mother’s lap and even into my teen years, I would return to those books for my own quiet reading pleasure. So much so, that those poems became a part of me. In fact, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that I might not be the rhyming picture book author and poet that I am today, had I not been immersed from a very young age in a rich environment where we read, talked about, and then engaged in meaningful and fun activities prompted by what we had read.

So here’s my parting thought for you today: Are you making reading with your children a priority? Those years when they are little will fly by, but taking time to curl up and read together for even just as little as 20 minutes a day, will not only bond you in a most wonderful way, it will also plant seeds of reading joy that will last a life time. 

Comments

  1. Love these recollections! What a beautiful relationship you have with your mom!

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