Painting Dreams with Stories Told

I have to be honest. I didn’t really want to do it.

The activity of the day often drained my morning intentions.

The activity of the day often drained my morning intentions. I don’t think this is my own issue to confess. It is the same for many a father and mother. The task, as it was once put to me, is not one literally. I enjoy reading: history, books on faith and family, and fiction authors that bring two dimensional words on paper and make them come alive with emotion and feeling while placing indelible thoughts and images on our mind.

The issue was this, I decided the way to help my daughter in school was not just to enforce a mandated twenty minutes of reading, but to foster a joy of reading. The twenty minute chore was sucking the pleasure out of it for my seven year old. Reading, for her, was met with bouts of tears and frustration rather than the pleasure it should hold. And so began a promise made, fed by the inspiration of a young writer, Alice Ozma.

I decided the way to help my daughter in school was not just to enforce a mandated twenty minutes of reading, but to foster a joy of reading.

The promise made by her father became the novel of their journey together – The Reading Promise. His promise I could never keep, but I would do my best. Alice’s father’s initial promise of 100 nights of reading to her, incredibly, became 3,218. Do the math. “The streak”, as it came to be known, lasted daily for nine years!

So, each night after my youngest reads her chapter book of choice, I tuck her in bed and I read to her. We switch back and forth from books I pick: Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn-Dixie, The One and Only Ivan and The Secret Garden. Her picks, Staring Jules (as herself), Ramona and Beezus, and… I think you get the idea.

This experiment ran for some time, at first it was tough, my long days and her apprehension, but as we moved along it became a very special time between us. Something we now look forward to and not just at bedtime. She once said,

“I can’t wait to get to bed so my daddy can read to me.”

“I can’t wait to get to bed so my daddy can read to me.” I actually heard those words come from her mouth in a conversation with her mom. The most wonderful experiences have come from this: We talk about stories, she has questions, and I try to answer them. Her reading has improved. Her writing has improved. Her creativity has improved. Her vocabulary has improved. I no longer have to ask her to read. She wants to read. She loves coming with me to the library. She joins me on my books store visits.

One memory still makes me smile even now as I type this years later, as I finished reading one evening and said goodnight, she asked me, “Dad, you know why I like it when you read to me a bedtime story?” “No, but I would love to hear.” Her answer gave me pause, “It’s like your painting my dreams with words.”

We are currently reading Anne of Green Gables. A first read for us both. I am enjoying just as much as she is.

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A Husband and Father - That is enough for me.

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