Dad shared the value of a good read

January 17, 2002

I finally made it this weekend to "The Lord of the Rings," the three-hour-plus movie that is still keeping theaters packed after being out for three weeks something that no movie has managed to do for a long time. I enjoyed it, and find a full year a long time to wait until the next installment comes out.

However, I won't be in suspense as far as the story is concerned. I know what happens not because I read the book in anticipation this summer, but because my dad read it to me before I was 11, in daily installments right before bedtime or, if I was lucky, two or three chapters throughout the day on weekends.

That is quite possibly the reason I am writing this article not just an article on this subject, but writing at all. Since my father started reading to me, which was basically when I was born, I've wanted to make my own stories like the ones he told me.

We started with the obligatory picture books and children's books. Around the age of 5 and kindergarten, we started the "Black Stallion" series, then Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" books. Before we reached Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo" (around fifth grade), we'd also read Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" series, Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" books, Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" and Dumas' "The Three Musketeers."

Most people quit reading to their children when they start reading by themselves. But my dad never stopped. We're now back to Dumas (my mother found a complete set at an estate sale). This time it's lesser-known books like "The Black Tulip" and "Le Chavalier de Maison Rouge."

Reading has taken place at all kinds of times, like on trips, sick days or holidays. When I was young, we even took hikes and carried the book along to find a quiet place in the woods behind West Campus. Most regularly, though, we read after I was ready for bed (including having brushed my teeth).

Educators often preach about the importance of reading to young children, but it can be more than educational. For instance, my dad is quiet and doesn't talk a lot. When we are both busy with school and work, we can go for weeks without a real conversation. But when he reads, we share a world even if it is a fantasy one together.

It also makes me feel closer to the rest of my family. On my grandfather's bookshelf is the copy of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" that my grandmother read to my father. She read many of these same books to my father, and some of them he's rereading to my brother Peter, who is now 11.

So as good as "The Lord of the Rings" was this weekend, I'm glad I had it first from a different source my dad.

Rebekah Zemansky is a senior at Lawrence High School.

Originally published at: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2002/jan/17/dad_shared_the/