Monday, May 11, 2015

The Day the Book Closed

At Et Cum Spiritu Tuo, I read an interview with a professor in the UK who said parents who read to their kids should feel bad for "disadvantaging" other children.

After the eyeroll at this moronic statement, the Bear felt a pang of loss.

The Bear read to his cubs for years. When we lived in Sicily, he read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, although really only his oldest could fully appreciate it. So we read the whole thing again later, after we moved back to the States, plus The Hobbit. Every night, without fail, we would read a chapter of some book, and usually two, when the kids would plead, "Please, just one more chapter!" The Bear would always make a show of sighing and closing the book at the end of the evening's reading, but the old fraud had a finger marking his place.

Aside from The Velveteen Rabbit (which always made the Bear cry at the end), the Bear doesn't remember many children's books. The Old Limey, was more typical.

What happens when a reactionary, retired British brigadier general comes to Los Angeles looking for his missing god-daughter? Comic chaos, that's what, with California beach babes, Jamaican drug gangs, and other colorful characters feuding and fighting in a mad search and rescue operation.

The Bear's daughter, our youngest, said just yesterday how much she loved that book. There was The Sixth Column, and Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. She, by H. Rider Haggard. (The Bear can still remember one of the twins crying when, near the end, his favorite character plunged to his death.) There was the incredible time-twisting The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, and The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Some of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.

There were literally dozens of titles over the years. All the time they were growing up, the cubs -- and the Bear's mate, too -- every night shared a love of reading with the Bear, who didn't just read, but did all the different character voices, too!

Eventually, it became harder to round everyone up for reading time. Once in awhile there would be no-shows. Finally, one evening -- we were on the hilarious over-the-top  Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser -- only the Bear's daughter was left, his youngest.

We never made it through Pyrates. One evening, no one came, the book was closed, and it was not opened again.

And that explains the pang the Bear felt when he read the article about reading to your children.

Of course, it had to come to an end. Now that you mention it, hopefully the Bear did confer an advantage upon his cubs, or at least a love of reading.

All things come to an end. But the Bear knows that, on some cool autumn evening, when dry leaves are rustling beneath the window, one of the Bear's children will open up a book again, and read to his or her own children.

And they will do the voices.


  1. Well done,sir...brings back fond memories indeed.

  2. Oh, yes - thank you for bring back the memories. We read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and so many, many others. (I can still say without hesitation "Tikki tikki tembo no sa rembo chari bari richi pip peri pembo.")

    The one difficulty was our daughter at one point didn't want to learn to read because she thought we would stop reading to her. We promised to continue reading to her, and she started reading to us also!

  3. I did not read to them as much as I should have. I do not know many of the titles that you recite. My hope and prayer is that they remember fondly the silly and entertaining musings of a silly and entertaining old man; and that they realize that love of a father, and the love of The Father, was the point of it all.

  4. Well, that brought me to tears.

    But yes, I'm sure my children will read to their children, and all will be well.

  5. [Hands Tamsin a box of Kleenex.] Yeah, me too.

  6. Bear, this was pretty beautiful...odd to see a badger cry.

  7. We read to our kids as well from the beginning. It was always a special time. We read classics. When reading "Last of the Mohicans," I couldn't help but laugh about the "miracles" that Mark Twain cited in the illogical feats of Nanny Bumpo (or whatever he was called in that book.) The kids are outgrowing reading at bedtime as well these days. I miss those times. I miss the wholesome input for our children as well. The books at school libraries and on school reading lists are too sophisticated and suggestive in my mind. (I am sure you would agree.)


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