We all know your importance in a child's literary and language skills development. You are a practice that I have done with my kiddos since they were months old. Whether we are reading a book together at bedtime, or reading the same book together separately, Dear Husband and I are always on board to help the kiddos explore the joy and gratification of reading.
The sun never rises from the west. The seasons never go out of order. I never tell my kids to stop reading... er, except for when I committed to read To Kill a Mockingbird with Dear Daughter. Ahem. Last school year, the kiddos' school put together a booklet about its staff and teachers. DD found her current teacher's page and read that her favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. Because she loves her teacher dearly, she was instantly intrigued by this book. And because her reading level makes this book appropriate for her, her teacher indicated that it would be fine for her to read it if DH and I both think it's okay content-wise--which we do. So I agreed to read the book along with her so that I can answer questions were she to have any.
Bang! And we're off. DD reads books the way one devours one's favorite food: fast and furious. The number of books and pages she reads puts us to shame. Granted, she must read for school and for homework, but DH and I both wish we had the time to read the equivalent of a fraction of the contents in her reading log. But as for co-reading, DH has actually accomplished this with DD for the entire Harry Potter series, which, in and of itself, is quite a feat, for the both of them. They bonded over that experience in ways I won't be able to understand until perhaps one day I can do the same with Dear Son. To Kill a Mockingbird would be the first book I'd co-read with DD. It seemed like a doable deed; that it was less than 300 hundred pages and a book I remembered loving made it seem like a goal I can accomplish.
In the picture above, the book on the left is my copy--from high school. If my memory serves me correctly, we read it second semester of 9th grade. The one on the right is the most current edition we borrowed from the library for DD. If there is one possession that DH and I are proud of, it would be all of our books. I still have about 95% of books I've ever owned or read since high school (and since college for DH). (The 5% is because we lost a box of books during our move from college, when I noticed my Norton Anthologies from college literature courses were missing.) This means that I have all the literature books we read in high school that I remember not understanding very much--books by Dostoyevsky, Ibsen, Joyce, Faulkner, Hesse, Turgenev, Hardy, etc. I honestly don't know what teenagers can get out of these books, since they have had so little life experience to even begin to relate to their themes. Which is why one of my recent goals is to go back and read many of those books again to really see what I missed back then. And To Kill a Mockingbird was already one on that list.
"Where are you in the book? STOP reading the book!" I asked and demanded of DD. I became frantic if it seemed like she was whizzing along while I desperately tried to keep up. We were on par, mostly, for the first quarter of the book, and we'd ask each other where we last bookmarked on a daily basis. Unfortunately for DD, she was assigned Tom Sawyer in one of her classes, and had to put our book on the back burner. She was not happy. I have finished the book and I'm ready for her questions. But, wow, did this process ever remind me why I loved this book so much even as an innocent, young teenager.
Not-so-random fact: I never forget a face or a number. I have excellent memory for names and dates. And even though I've started to notice a slight decline in those areas due to an annoyance called Aging, I know that I am still pretty sharp. Movies, however, are a mystery to my memory bank. I can watch a movie and just months later watch it again as if for the very first time. Unless I've seen one multiple times, I won't be able to tell you any details at all. In a way, it makes watching movies sort of fun, since I get to experience the climax or twist all over again. Well, it turns out that it's about the same with books. I really didn't remember details of To Kill a Mockingbird at all, other than the names Atticus and Scout, and very faint memories of the black-and-white movie starring Gregory Peck. Granted that the last time I read this book was over twenty years ago, but you'd think one can remember the basic plot. Not I. It was literally like I was reading it for the very first time--except knowing that I really liked it the first time around.
I plowed through the book because it was so good. I loved Scout's narrative: her innocence, her point-of-view with practically no "adult"-erated filters, her tomboyish obstinacy, and the way her character shines at the end when she finally meets Boo Radley. It is the Good of Atticus and the Growth of Scout and her brother that help me replenish my trust and belief in humanity. That very positive feeling is what people thrive on and what brings out the benevolence in us, and ultimately contributes to making our world a better place. I'm still on a high--a good kind of booking-finishing high--from having read this book, having had 39 birthdays, being married with 2 children, and still not enough life experience.
Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the 60s about life in the 30s. If people like Scout and Atticus had it in their hearts to know that people are people regardless of their skin color in the 30s, and that people knew it was the right thing to do to end segregation in the 60s, and--while I'm not claiming all racial discrimination have been eliminated--we are now living in a much different world today... then there is more to be accomplished. Like Scout says--"There's just one kind of folks. Folks."--I believe that people are people, and that folks who love each other can be together and have a family and nurture children without stigma and limitations. We're in the midst of it now (although New Zealand is way ahead of this country), but I know that one day we will look back and think: hmmm, we had to overcome marriage equality back then, and we don't even bat an eye now.
Furthermore, in the wake of having just reread this book, it is disheartening to come to terms with evil in this world even among all the Good. As Miss Maudie explained,
"Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”And that's exactly what the evil of the Boston Marathon bombings did: kill and hurt innocent mockingbirds who were in the act of accomplishing a dream or watching a loved one do so. But in the aftermath of this horrific tragedy, it is quite clear that Good persists. It persists in the people who finished the marathon and ran straight to hospitals to donate blood. It persists in the front line rescue teams and even onlookers who risked their lives to save others. It persists in the love shown by people all over the country and all over the world who immediately began to send prayers and positive thoughts to Boston and everyone affected by the tragedy. The Good prevails, even in the face of despair. Because there is a Scout or an Atticus still alive in the grace of humanity.
DD is now splitting her reading time between To Kill a Mockingbird and Tom Sawyer. She cannot wait to finish our book in order to discuss it with me. I know that there will be so much that she will not understand at this moment, but this won't be the last time she'll read it. When she reads it in middle school, high school, or beyond, she will gain something new each time. But this time, she will have planted a little seed, one that I am confident that will sprout into a flower reflecting her belief in Goodness and Humanity.
So, Dear Co-Reading, this first experience with DD has been incredibly eye-opening on so many levels for me. Not only has reading To Kill a Mockingbird impacted me with thoughts on current events and issues, but it will also allow me to share valued notions of Character and Integrity with my DD. Truly, the joys of reading increases exponentially when one can share thoughts and discuss book-finishing highs. And whaddaya know, I've just downloaded Tom Sawyer onto my Kindle (and it's free!).