In our earliest club meetings, we pondered the importance of food trends a la “Green Eggs and Ham,” and discovered the effectiveness of the stall tactic as we listed all the different bedroom items we could wish a good night to, while reading “Good Night Moon.”
As our reading group grew, literary friends such as Ramona Quimby, Pippi Longstocking, Nate the Great, and Tom Sawyer taught us how to both get in, and worm our way out of trouble, and Laura Ingalls Wilder showed us what life was like in the days before technology.
By the time our club members were old enough to meet Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen, and Alex Rider, however a shift began to occur. Group meetings on the couch became fewer and farther between, while trips to the beach, and the mall, and reading behind closed doors began to prevail.
When the younger members of our family reading circles start to forego their membership, is it time to give up on family reading? I, for one, would answer with a hearty, “no way!”
If reading with our children provides us an opportunity to have meaningful discussion with them, then why not with the adult members of our families as well?
Recently, my husband and I were at Barnes and Noble, picking up something for one of the boys, when we stumbled upon a book that caught our eye. So, we bought it to read together.
When my grandmother was in the last months of her life, and had lost her ability to see well enough to read, my sister brought along a book on her visits, and read to her.
My father, who has never enjoyed reading, but loves a good story, has found that he enjoys spending time with my stepmom, as they read together, most often, with her reading aloud to him.
In all these scenarios, the book is simply the conduit, providing us adults the same thing we seek when reading with our children – an opportunity to slow time and focus on something other than our no-doubt bustling world. Whether our experience takes us on a shared escape, or leads to a deep discussion ripe with social commentary is entirely up to us.
Here are a few of the books the adult members of my family have enjoyed reading together:
“Lessons from Little Rock,” by Terrence Roberts: Roberts was one of the “Little Rock Nine” tasked with desegregating public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in the wake of the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling, declaring segregated schools to be unconstitutional. In this book, he shares his experiences as one of the nine, as well as his reflections on the state of racial affairs in our country since.
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” by Jamie Ford: This is the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese-American caught up in the anti-Asian sentiments prevalent in the 1940s United States. Henry, and his Japanese friend, Keiko, knew what it was like to be American, yet not at the same time. Ford gives us a look at one of our nation’s weakest moments, as Keiko and her family are sent to a Japanese internment camp, but also shares two young people’s hope for their future, despite living in uncertain times.
“The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett: In this book that was turned into an Oscar-winning movie, we travel to Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Skeeter, a young woman born and bred in Jackson, is just returning from Ole Miss to find that the Southern traditions regarding “the help” can no longer fit within the confines of her conscience. She begins interviewing several of the domestic servants in town, and what follows is a poignant look, that is both humorous and heartbreaking, at what life was like in the civil rights era South.