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He Bear, She Bear

Posted by on December 22, 2013

Karen and I both enjoy reading a lot. The path between our house and the library is well worn. We like a lot of the same things, but we also have our own preferences. My tastes tend to run from non-fiction books about science to science fiction, while Karen enjoys mostly fiction. We share an appreciation for books that stretch our faith. For the most part, we lead a peaceful coexistence with respect to book reading, with one important exception.

Karen cheats.

That’s right, she cheats when reading. If she starts a book and isn’t sure she likes where it’s heading…she flips to the end of the book and READS THE LAST CHAPTER! And if she doesn’t like what she finds there, she just stops reading the book!

As everyone knows, this is a clear violation of the contract one makes with a book. When we turn to chapter one and begin reading we have signed on for the complete journey. Sometimes it’s a rough journey, but our persistence in the face of faulty plots and flawed characters is a sign of our character. Sometimes the only reward at the end is the knowledge that we got through it, but that is enough. At least for those who FOLLOW the rules. (hmph!)

Fortunately we’ve been able to hide this awful family secret from the children. :-)

We began reading to our boys while they were still infants. When the time came, we used books to teach them their animal sounds and their colors. They learned to read by following along as we read Dr. Seuss. Some books we read so many times that I can still recite them from memory.

“Hand, hand, fingers, thumb. One thumb, one thumb, drumming on a drum!”

One of the rules for reading to children is that you HAVE to do the voices. It starts before there are words, with the animal sounds, but eventually you get to the characters in chapter books. At that point you’re not so much reading the book as you are acting out the parts.

One of our favorite series was “Hank the Cow Dog”. Hank is a cattle dog who sees himself as the Head of Ranch Security. He has a big responsibility and he takes his job very seriously; you could tell by the way I did his voice. His sidekick, Drover, is not so convinced. He’s not very brave and when danger looms his leg has a habit of cramping up. It is so predictable that before long the boys started chiming in with me whenever I performed Drover’s infamous lament,

“Ohhhhhh. My legggg!”

You can learn a lot from the foibles of a couple of dogs. Hank may not be too smart, but he shows courage and does the best he can to think things through. Grover may not be too brave, but he’s usually a step or two ahead of Hank in figuring out what’s really going on.

The Berenstain Bears books are a little more overt in their attempts to provide moral lessons. I did the voices for them too, but sometimes I added a little sarcasm to spice things up a bit. I had to make sure the boys were really listening.

“He Bear, She Bear” was one of our favorites. In it, Brother and Sister Bear encounter adults in various professions and discover that both boys and girls can grow up to be just about anything they want to be. That’s a fine lesson in diversity and inclusion, but I felt like I needed to emphasize the point with a little sarcasm.

I would read, “You could… be a doctor, make folks well. Teach kids how to add and spell!”

Suddenly I would look up from the book and exclaim, “Waaaait a minute…GIRLS can’t be doctors, can they?”

“Noooooooooo!” the boys would gleefully chorus.

Then we’d all have a good laugh, because they knew I was being ridiculous in order to emphasize the point. OF COURSE girls can do any of those things. It was just fun to watch mom’s expression when we implied otherwise.

We repeated that scene every time we read that book, and it was just as much fun each time.

When Philip was about 3, we decided to take a trip to Washington D.C. We were homeschooling the two older boys at the time and we planned to use our trip to emphasize their lessons in history, science, math, and whatever else we could work in. It was a memorable trip.

One morning we were traveling into the District on the METRO, and as usual our boys were chatting it up with whomever they happened to be sitting near. The other passengers were really nice about it. One lady in particular had a spirited conversation with Philip. She was clearly a professional woman and no doubt held a position of importance wherever she worked, so we appreciated her taking the time to talk with our three-year old. Their conversation captured the attention of most of the other folks in the car with us. All eyes were on them.

When the train reached her stop, the lady stood to leave and Philip asked her where she was going. She said she had to go to work now. Philip’s face suddenly lit up and, loud enough for the whole car to hear him, he exclaimed with a laugh,

Girls can’t go to work!”

Immediately all eyes shifted to me.

Like I said, it was a memorable trip.

originally published 10/10/11|next post Getting Ahead of Ourselves

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