So now it matters almost not at all to any of them except as a storybook matters; loved in childhood but outgrown in adolescence, it still matters, still instructs, still is part of what the adult becomes.
Phyllis Tickle, The Graces We Remember: Songs in Ordinary Time (126)
When our children Crista and Joel were little, a prelude to nap-time was their mother chanting in a sing-song voice: “Come to the storybook chair, the story book chair, the story book chair, and we’ll read . . . .” Hearing that, they’d head for the rocking chair and climb on my lap for colorful Richard Scarry pages or the clever tricks of a George and Martha book. I’m carrying on a tradition that began with my mother who read to me from picture books, and also recited poetry from her school days.
My journal tells me (and it does not lie) these are the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson that Mother recited to me in 1999 from her memories of Lime Rock School near Lititz, Pennsylvania in the mid 1920s.
She also recited the verses of “My Shadow” from the “Golden Book of Poetry” 1947 with the familiar first two stanzas:
At the beginning of second grade, the summer I turned seven, I had my tonsils removed and among my memories (besides drinking chocolate milk through a straw and trying to swallow smashed bananas) is reading the poem “The Land of Counterpane” under a quilt that probably matched my own upon my sick-bed.
What are your early memories of reading? Did a friend or family member recite poetry or other words of wisdom to you?
Coming next: The Wonda Chair and the Heirloom
Good morning, Marian. I loved this. When I saw “The Swing” it elicited a different type of childhood memory. I heard it in Bullwinkle’s voice–although I did not remember his “interpretation.” 🙂 Here it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBWhkLuPl_s
There were always books in our house, but I don’t really remember my parents reading to me, although I’m certain they did. We began reading to our daughters when they were infants, and it was always a pre-nap and pre-bedtime ritual. When they got older, it got to be a sort of family ritual, as we read the Narnia books and others like that. When they were little we also read lots of nursery rhymes and poetry. I read a recent report saying that those types of works are not so common now, but that they are very helpful with language development. OK. I’ll stop now. 🙂
A moose reciting “The Swing” – new to me. I would say “Holy Smokes” to that rendition too!
I know you do a lot of research, but I didn’t know that nursery rhymes and poetry were becoming passe. . . disappointing. At least we are not dropping the ball with this generation and the next. Such fond memories of this quiet, cozy time!
I didn’t read the actual study, just news about it. It seemed that some parents now who do buy and read books to their children think nursery rhymes are too old fashioned, but researchers say the type of language–and the richness of it (not simply rhymes, such as Dr. Seuss) helped with language development. But definitely cozy times, too. We also had a video of nursery rhymes that were sort of recited/acted by English children and a few adults. It was a very cheap video that I found in a bin somewhere, but our kids liked it. It went from “A to Zed.” 🙂
I subscribe to the “old school” point of view too regarding nursery rhymes. That’s probably where we got our rhythm!
Rhythm and language–both are important!
Good morning Marian what a cute picture of mom. Growing up my mom never read to us. She went to school up to the third grade. Then she had to help work. Yes, so sad. She went through so many things as a child that it surprised me that she would have had so many children – 8 altogether. Yet she worked hard for all of us so that we didn’t have to be on the welfare rolls. I read to my children even in the womb. I had a wonderful friend Teresa Saloma who taught me how to care for my child. I’ve always loved to read. Tt was my escape to my reality. I still read a lot everyday just not books that take me away; otherwise, I could never get anything done. My hope is that when my grandchildren are off to college and I can finally be an empty nester. I look forward to having that pleasure. I’ve been parenting since the age of 15. I’m now 55. I believe I have been parenting the longests and still have 7 years to go – lol! oh well God knows why. Thank you for your post.
Gloria, you are to be commended for reading to your children in the womb. Judging from your age, you did so before it became a popular thing to do. Yes, I’m glad to share this story and Mom’s picture with you. You picked up where I left off in Mother’s life – well, sort of!
Ah…I love to go back in time! 🙂 I remember My Shadow and The Swing. In fact I may have The Golden Book of Poetry. I’ll have to check and see. But I remember those two poems from my childhood. Thanks for the memories! <3
I’m glad this post jogged your memory. My guess is you can probably find a book somewhere with these poems. Thanks for joining the conversation today.
Marian — Just returning from a long walk with Lexi and Willa, I found a notice to your new post in my email box. The wonderful illustrations you shared have put a great big smile on my face.
My mother instilled in us a love of reading early on. We would PILE pillows up behind us on the bed and sink in for a story. As we got older, we gobbled up the pages of Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and then moved on to the likes of Grace Livingston Hill.
We have a similar childhood repertoire of reading, Laurie. The words to describe your reading experience are so wonderfully graphic: piling up pillows, sinking in for a story, and gobbling up pages sound like like my kind of exercise. 🙂
The only time I can remember my mother’s voice was story-time. Every child needs a storybook chair and a warm lap to climb in.
Your mother’s voice has connected to your own voice as a writer. I wonder if you have ever thought of that, Susan. Thanks for chiming in!
Again your memories jibe with mine. My mother also read Robert Louis Stevenson to us and the three poems you picked were my favorites. I also had my tonsils taken out and remember the chocolate milk and the hospital room. Mother also read Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue books to us and the Egermeier Bible Stories. I love the idea of a storybook chair and a song to go with it. Since we are taking care of Owen and Julia this week, we can put that idea to good use. Thanks!
The Egermeier Bible Story book – I haven’t thought of that in a long time. I see a short video with Owen and Julia on your lap singing a made-up “storybook” song – and reading, of course! 😉
My early memories of reading were Dick and Jane readers–likely by an older sib, and I couldn’t wait to get to school to learn to read those books. I know Mom read to us but I don’t have strong memories of what, other than from a Bible Story Book–the picture illustrated series. Do you know what one I’m talking about? They were very common in Mennonite/evangelical homes in the 50s.
A thick book is vaguely coming into view – I think it was maroon in color. When we begin to go through Mother’s things, I know this may turn up. Thanks for jogging my memory here, Melodie!
It is always beautiful to see when mother’s coddle and read to their children. I never had that and am always happy to hear of great nurturing tales. The poems are lovely. 🙂
I have a feeling you have found little ones to coddle – maybe your own children or nieces and nephews. I’m glad you enjoyed the nostalgic poetry.
Yes, Marian, my niece and her precious baby are like my own. 🙂
What wonderful memories and sweet pictures to go along with them .I fondly remember my dad reading the funny papers and fairy tales to me when I was little. He always worked so hard but he still took time to read to us.
Funny papers and fairy tales are a good combination – imagination and humor, two aspects your readers see in the stories you now write. I appreciate your visits here, Darlene.
What a wonderful tradition!
Thank you, Fiona!
Love this! I wrote two separate posts about “The Swing” and “My Shadow”, how my mother turns into a young mother and child again upon reciting them. I do not know “The Land of Counterpane” though, so thank you for the introduction. And thank you for the delightful pictures including the lovely one of your mother as a young student.
My mother definitely has wonderful memories of two poems mentioned above as she has committed them to memory. Out at the farm, on a swing under an oak, I ask her out of the blue “Do you remember the first lines of “The Swing”. Of course she does and gives me more. We are never too old to hear the delightful voice of our mother get excited and deliver her own rhythm, just like a dancer has her own indelible moves.
Beautifully written, Georgette, just like the writer you are. And how fortunate you still are to hear the delightful voice of your own mother, evoking the child in both of you, as she recites “The Swing.” I like too that you point out not just the sound of the voice but the unique rhythm too. Your comment touched me!
Marian … Your photos and poems are wonderful. They stir childhood memories of being read to. How I loved it when my Mom read to me. I, in turn, read to our two girls and now I read to our two grandchildren.
Your post also reminds me of this quote: “Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me.” Strickland Gillian
We have a rich heritage with books, don’t we, Judy? I’ve heard the quote before, but didn’t know the attribution. Thanks for supplying it. Now I’ll squirrel it away in my quote collection! 😉
We had a beautiful old copy of Child’s Garden of Verse and, along with the AA Milne books, it was my introduction to poetry.
Thanks for chiming in with recognition. Many of us grow up with the words and images of these fine British authors imprinted on our memories. Who could forget Winnie the Pooh!
Those are some of the same poems I read to my mother recently, Marian, except I wish I’d had your “…come to the storybook chair, the storybook chair…” invitation. What a delightful way to begin a poetry reading session.