Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Justin Morgan Needs a Motorcycle

Before we had kids, I used to fantasize about the bedtime stories I'd read to my gifted progeny.  I asked myself questions like: Is 3 too early to introduce them to Cormac McCarthy?  Does is matter if my kids mispronounce Fydor Dostoyevsky?  I imagined snuggling up on the couch in our jammies as my doe-eyed youngest handed me Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and said, "My mother is a fish." We'd all laugh and then I'd read to a rapt audience.

Me and Fat Cat will just chill, you keep reading
Obviously, this is why no one likes, or hires, English majors.  The reality of bedtime reading has been far less literary.  During the school year, Dylan has take home readers and we learn a lot about the daily struggles of Pat, Meg, and their damn dog, Bit.  When we ask Grady to choose his bedtime story, he usually grabs Pajama Party.  We sang "Pajama, jamma, jamma," so many times, and in so many ways, that we finally hid the book.

This year, Mom was cleaning out a bookshelf and I ended up with a pile of my old books.  I got so nostalgic about the stories that I immediately integrated a two part bedtime reading policy: I pick the books, and, You can't pick the books.  We started with The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  My brother Greg's name was written in his careful left-handed penmanship on the inside cover and I thought, This book is old.  Would it hold up?  Yep, the kids loved it.  Even after I'd catch Dylan drifting away and looking at the cats, when I'd quiz her about the chapter, she'd caught every detail. (Reason #2 no one like English majors: we quiz.)

We flew through that book and eagerly jumped into a childhood favorite of mine, Justin Morgan Had a Horse.  This book, frankly, is kind of a stinker.  I have to update the language to keep the kids interested, so lines like, "Hark to the man!" become, "What's up, Homie!" or "'Tis an insult to match our blooded horses against him," modernize to, "Who wants candy!"

We'll just make our own books.
Grady usually calls it quits early in each chapter and starts climbing around the couch.  Dylan tries, but ends up singing songs quietly to herself somewhere by the second page.  Once, I tried to quit the book.  No one was paying attention to the story and I thought we'd pick it back up later, much later.  Dylan threw a fit though -- I think she thought I was upset we were quitting the story -- so I trudged on.  Now, when I quiz her, I'm not even looking for a correct answer.  I'm not even sure I could give one.  I just want her to realize that we've been reading the same story for three months.  It's like a kid's version of Infinite Jest, everyone brags about reading it, but I have a hard time believing anyone really likes it.

Lately, we've definitely been on a summer reading schedule.  No, not summer-reading, like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, rather, let's eat ice cream instead of reading a bedtime story kind of reading.  I'll definitely amend my bedtime reading rules and give the kids a vote on the next book.  Until then, I'll put Blood Meridian in Grady's bookshelf, right in front of Pajama Party, and keep my fingers crossed that's the one he chooses next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

isn't it Benji in Sound and The Fury?! (another reason to hate English majors?).