It all started back in the summer of 2018. I was going to be a senior in high school, and I had big plans for my future. Not only was I aspiring to go to university to study English & Biblical Studies, but my chosen university was also 5000 miles across the world in America. (I don’t think that 17 year old me quite realized the magnitude of those plans back then – but that’s irrelevant to this story :D) With my head full of dreams and anticipations, I was in full ‘enjoy summer’ mode, fully aware that this was my last summer before everything in my life changed. My family and I visited the US early in the summer, and while there I picked up a fair few books. The Reading Promise was one of them.
This book tells the author’s story of the reading streak that she and her Father shared from the time she was in 4th grade to when she left for college. It’s a beautifully written book, and I, being the reading enthusiast I am, heartily enjoyed it. I then passed it onto my Mum so she could enjoy it. And that was it as far as I was concerned. Read another good book, onto the next one…
A few weeks later, towards the end of the summer, my Mum approached me. “Hey, I was thinking it would be cool to do our own reading streak, like the one in that book,” she proposed. I was intrigued but hesitant. “I think it would be a really cool thing to do for your last year at home,” she continued. “I’m willing to give it a try if you are.”
I had nothing to lose. I liked the idea of reading consistently with my Mum, just like Alice and her Father had. The Reading Promise had whetted my appetite for reading out loud, and the competitive streak in me liked the idea of seeing how long we could keep the reading streak going. “Sure, let’s do it!” I agreed.
Little did I know what books the next 387 days of my life would hold in store for me. Nor could I have imagined just how precious that time with my Mum would become.
We set up two ground rules before starting our streak.
- Mum always had to read out loud to me. No me reading to her. No listening to audio books. Mum reading to me. 100% of the time.
- We had to read for at least 10 minutes a day for it to count. We could read for as long as we wanted, but 10 minutes was the minimum.
And, as a little guiding principle, we decided to try and alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction.
And so, on August 2nd 2018, my Mum and I began our reading streak.
It wasn’t exactly the most thrilling of starts. It was a hot afternoon, and Mum had been in bed with a migraine all day. She came down with Brown Girl Dreaming in her hands – “Ready to start?” She asked. And so with that, we started. I was lounging on a mattress that was randomly in our school room, she was sitting up cross-legged on the floor – her reading, me listening. The windows were open and I could hear the shouts of the neighbourhood kids outside. The clatter of the dinner dishes echoed in the kitchen. But I was being swept away to a world of poetry, where words flew like butterflies, sun-warmed and soft to my ears.
By the time we started our next book, Nurturing the Nations, summer was on its way out. I remember reading this book at night, the glare of the living room lights bright against the French doors of the living room that were shut against the dim of evening. The plight of the women recorded in this book was sobering, but the discoveries my Mum and I made together about the roots of feminism were invigorating. What would feminism look like had it not been taken and twisted by the liberals? Would womanhood around the world look different if the original feminists were still around today? The questions this book brought up weren’t easy, but I was glad to be able to navigate them with the woman whose example I respect most in the world.
We started A Tale of Two Cities one evening while on our holiday by the sea, in the first week of September. It was my first proper foray into Dickens, and Mum’s first since high school, so we tackled the old language and complex story together. Time passed, and as the story progressed, school started, along with my first official job at an after school club.
I remember many an afternoon where I would get ready for work in my room, as Mum read aloud about the trials and triumphs of Doctor and Lucie Manette. The world of treason and guillotines seemed so far away as I put mascara on and did my hair. But then it would loom scarily close when I would lay on the floor and let the story press heavy on my eyelids. Chapter done, I would remove myself from the dangerous streets of Paris or London, and cycle off downtown to work for the afternoon.
Next up was this non-fiction book focusing on communication issues. I struggled listening to this one. For some reason it was hard for me to get into, and I found it easy to drift off on my own brain adventures while Mum read this to me. Fortunately, Mum soon caught onto the fact that I wasn’t clicking with this book, and suggested a change. She suggested that I sit next to her and read over her shoulder while she read to me. Perhaps both hearing and seeing the words might just do the trick. And so it did. I found I could connect far better with what the author was saying, and I also found that he was actually saying some very insightful things. Who’d have thought! 😀
We didn’t own this delightful book in hard copy, so Mum had to learn how to wrangle my lovely little Kindle in order to read this one. We both became quickly enchanted by the sweet story of a newly fatherless family’s struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. With wise Mother Carey at the helm, her brood of children learn many life lessons along the way. It was often evening when we read this book, and I have memories of hanging up laundry or doing dishes after dinner while Mum read to me. It seemed somehow fitting to do household chores as we read this vintage story of a family forced to work together to keep going after the death of their beloved father and husband. Thankfully my beloved father was still very much alive and would wander in and listen in a slightly amused air as Mum and I read. I don’t think he’s quite learned the art of appreciating Vintage family novels. 😀
Before we knew it, Christmas was upon us! My grandparents flew in from the US to celebrate with us, and there was great feasting and merriment in the house. Even sickness couldn’t dampen the joy of the day, and we had a precious few evenings where Mum read this book aloud to all of us. It was but a wee little book, but a sweet read. And it was made sweeter because of the sparkle of Christmas lights, the warmth of blankets, and the presence of three generations of family all together.
I received this book for Christmas and Mum and I began to read it on Boxing Day. As huge AoGG fans, we were immediately enamoured by this book. Though non-fiction, it read like a story. The author expertly weaves together her own life story, along with the life story of L.M. Montgomery, and of course, our beloved (fictional) Anne Shirley. As 2018 turned to 2019, we read this book all over the house – I sprawled across Mum’s bed, sat on the kitchen floor, folded laundry in the living room – all the while listening to this beautiful book unfold. I didn’t want it to finish, and when it did, I immediately started searching for other comparable books. This was one of those beautiful finds that I call ‘literary non-fiction’ – books about books – and it did my heart good…
This post is getting long, so the saga of my Reading Streak will be continued next week… See you then!!