The Importance of Sharing

Find the Summer chapter in your text and share it with someone you love.

Read to Them‘s family literacy programs are premised on several components – reading a book, a high quality chapter book, at home, with your family, as an entire school.  Reading.  A chapter book.  Aloud.  At home.  As a school.  Together.

In a perfect world, a family gathers together and every member – mother, father, sister, brother – listens to every word together.  No one misses a word.  Or a chapter.  Or scene.  Or dialogue.

But life isn’t perfect.

As eager as we are for our thousands of readers and listeners, families and schools, to read a wide range of challenging titles, to stretch and learn and share and grow – to collect characters and moments and choice bits of dialogue and memorable plot developments – funny, dramatic, sad, moving, heartwarming – we also want to remember that the most important aspect of all this is the sharing.  That’s right.  The sharing.

Not my favorite line or your favorite character.   Not “You have to read this part!”  Or “Read that part again.”  Yes, all those things are vitally important.  It’s why you or any of us do this in the first place.  To create memories.  To transmit culture – stories, lessons, morals, style.

More important than any of these vital elements is the simple act of being together and sharing the text – and the moment and the choice details – together.  So you both know them.  So you can both refer to them.  (“Remember that time when you read…”)  So you both know that you both know that that text, that title, that chapter, that moment, that line is something that’s now a part of both of you.  It’s something you share.

I was reminded of this simple central truth in a recent conversation with a professional colleague.  She came to the Read to Them office to talk about writing and graphics and future employees.  But she is also a mother, so naturally we talked about books, too.  Two of her children were reading ripe Read to Them titles – The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) and the incomparable Wonder (R.J. Palacio).

Such a conversation naturally turns me into a reading evangelist, but I can’t subject every person who crosses the Read to Them threshold to that kind of enthusiastic pressure.  I wanted to ask, “Are you reading the books together?  Have you read them, too?  Do you know what’s in them?  What does your daughter think of Ruby?  Or Auggie’s helmet?” But I didn’t.

She acknowledged that one of her daughters found Wonder confusing.  I suspected that that might be because of R.J. Palacio’s magnificent technique of switching narrators and perspectives.  Magnificent to me, perhaps, but maybe not for each and every inexperienced reader.  I sensed my opening.

I pulled Wonder off the shelf and showed her how it ticks and gently suggested she might try reading it together.  See how it goes…

A day later I received a highly professional e-mail, detailing the half dozen topics and projects we discussed.  But my favorite part was her addendum…

“On a totally separate note, I read Wonder with my daughter out loud last night. We read the ‘Summer’ chapter together….alternating pages. When we were done, she said, ‘I understand it so much better when we both read it out loud.’ Thanks for the advice.”

I reciprocate and thank my correspondent (now colleague) for reminding me of this simple, elemental truth that it as at the heart of family literacy and all we do to promote families reading together and children growing up into lifelong readers.  It doesn’t matter if she started from the beginning.  It doesn’t matter if she reads the whole thing with her daughter.  All that matters is the sharing.  All that matters is that they created and shared a magic moment thru a book – one they won’t likely forget.  (And I won’t either.)

This past year we’ve been promoting the Middle School version of One School, One Book.  We know that neither middle school students nor middle school parents are going to take or make the time to be sure to be together to share a 250-page book together.  Schools are realistic in their expectations.

But that doesn’t mean that adolescent and parent can’t still share a little together.  Both are likely starved for such moments.  So I invite them both – teen-ager and parent – to consider sharing a character or scene or chapter or line from your book together.  Show them what you think is cool or memorable – sad or funny – or unforgettable.  Worth sharing.  Worth remembering.  Bring it up when you’re on a walk, or driving to practice!, or someone’s doing a chore.  Offer to read while student or parent is doing the dishes.  Find the Summer chapter in your title and share it with someone you love.

Remember: We all have choice memorable moments we are probably eager for others to know about.  To connect.  All that matters is the sharing.

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