Mom read us picture books and Bible stories and The Lord of the Rings–she read us everything except the few Stephen King novels and crime dramas that took up space on her own bookshelf full of boring adult fiction and books about bird-sighting. But the books I remember her reading the most were poetry collections.
Shel Silverstein was one of our favorites. Mom’s voice turned his line drawings into full-color illustrations. As she read (or, as often as not, recited) we heard the SNAP of the crocodile’s jaws gobbling up that cruel dentist, we smelled the ruminating banana peels in Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s garbage can, we tasted the viscous cement of the peanut butter sandwich that glued the king’s jaws together. We feared the yipiyuk that lived under the ramp leading up to the post office. Reading those poems as an adult, it’s Mom's inflections I imitate, because she’s as much a part of them for me as the words themselves.
It’s interesting that Mom invited me to write this guest post about reading aloud, just as I am in the middle of reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart books aloud to my own babies. One of the main characters in that trilogy, named Mo, is a gifted binder of books, and also happens to possess the magical ability to read people and things out of stories. I’ve often jokingly referred to my mom as Mo, because of her own bookbinding skills (admittedly not quite as impressive as Mo’s, but to be fair, she does not earn a living by that trade). But now that I’m thinking about it, I should’ve been calling her Mo long before she started binding books, because she’s been using her voice to bring books to life for us since we were babies.
There are many ways in which I aspire to be like my mom, but this one is number two on my list, right after continuously reflecting the love of Jesus to my husband and kids. When my children are grown, I hope they’ll remember the stories we read together, and when they hear the voices of Gandalf and Professor McGonangall and Bigwig the rabbit, that they’ll hear my voice somewhere in there too.