I love reading to my kids. I really, really do. Although I must admit that my reasons tend to be more selfish than pedagogical. Last year, as I was organizing our books, I came across my copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This particular set was my sweet sixteen birthday present from my parents. Instead of the keys to a car, I got the keys to Middle Earth (not really a mystery why I didn’t have a boyfriend then). I was painfully reminded that the last time I read the books consecutively, a Savage Garden CD was in my stereo. Yeah. Its been THAT long.
We had just finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia and I decided that the next book we should read together would be The Hobbit. Before I became a parent, I had dreams of introducing my children to the literature that I love and cherish. And I know it sounds weird, but the only thing that made me OK with having a girl was the thought that I would be able to introduce her to Lucy Pevensie, Laura Ingalls, Anne of Green Gables, Felicity Merriman, Jane Eyre, Hermione Granger, Scout Finch, Hester Prynne, Elizabeth Bennet, and Sara Crewe (to name a few).
I don’t think I would’ve held Jack’s attention with conversations about little houses on the prairie or balls and petit fours, so for him, it would be Tolkien. And lots of it (Lucy will get Tolkien too one day). Little did I know how entertaining reading literature way too advanced for a five year old would be. His commentary was usually unexpected, surprisingly insightful at times, and almost always hilarious. And it helped me have a firmer grasp on the whole story as I had to take frequent breaks and paraphrase what I was reading or define words for him. Or look up words I couldn’t define. Here are my favorite Tolkien conversations between my little son and I:
After reading that Gandalf and the Balrog fell:
Jack: NO! Where is Gandalf? is he OK?!
Me: Well, we have to keep reading to find out.
Jack: But he’s OK, right?
Me: I don’t know.
Jack: (after thinking for a moment) Well, God knows…And so does J.R.R. Tolkien.
This reasoning totally appeased his curiosity. And we learned the word, “omniscient” that day.
One day for our bible time, we read Jeremiah 33:15
“In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.”
Me: Jack, who is the branch sprouting from the line of David?
Me: I’ll give you a hint: Its a person.
Out of the nowhere:
Jack: Aragorn is my favorite.
Me: He’s my favorite too!
Jack: The capital is Salem.
Aragorn. The 33rd state.
And my favorite comment came after I read how Gollum had seized the ring by biting Frodo’s finger off and then fell into the fires of Mount Doom. I really built the moment up and was expecting a big celebratory response to good triumphing over evil in an epic tale that took us about 9 months to read.
Me: Did you hear what happened?! The ring was destroyed in the fire. The bad guys lost! The good guys won!
Jack: They won? The ring was destroyed?
Jack: Then why are there so many pages left in the book?
Because he’s Tolkien. That’s why.