Lit Kid: dividing the spoils

There are many shared things in marriage. You share food, money, resources, and so on.
But there will also be points where you have to divide up the jobs to do.

Deciding who gets to read which bedtime stories falls into this category.

When we were still in full picture book mode, it was easy. Pick a couple, off you go. Maybe some library books, maybe some of your own.

Dan has tended towards the bedtime story slot. I have had more of the daytime story slot. Fair division of labour, and no one wants to miss out on reading aloud privileges.

The plus side of picture books is variety. Which means when a certain favoured book is requested a little too much, you can always mix it up with other things you might want to read too.

Now that we are very much more in chapter book mode, it can get a bit trickier. Dan is still chief bedtime story person, but what do you do when one of you is away?

That’s fairly easy. It’s hard to pick up mid chapter book, so you generally put it on hold for a night, and do other quick things instead – like short stories from anthologies, or a mix of picture books if it needs to be short and sweet.

The real issue is: how do you divide up the really good books that you both want to read aloud?

And when you each have childhood memories of having that particular story read to you, and want to pass on that rush to your own child, who gets to do it?

I nabbed Winnie the Pooh, it’s fair to say. Often on evenings when Dan was out. A chapter at a time, you can make it feel like a treat. (Though prolonged reading aloud of Piglet can seriously affect your vocal cords.)

Dan nabbed The Hobbit. That was a hard one, but I have agreed to a compromise.

I get to do The Phantom Tollbooth (though I think that was a self-read, rather than a read aloud). And My Friend Mr Leakey, the latter of which I have particular memories of my dad reading to me.

Dan is currently on The Tower of Geburah, which his mum read to him. When only one side read a book, it’s fair.

Although I’m pretty sure my dad read Rikki Tikki Tavi to me, but Dan got to do the honours with Junior Reader, a couple of months back. Sometimes part of the fun is introducing the book to two new audiences, not just one.

In general, Dan gets to do more of the heroic reads. The two of them have discovered the Hiccup the Viking books together, and are both entranced by the storytelling. Dan is also happily reliving the Narnia series.

These days, I get to do more of the comic reads. Cows in Action, Mr Gum. Atticus books have a fair element of comedy in them too.

But I will also pull out classics, like The Nutcracker, The Wizard of Oz, and so on. Partly because I have some which are also really lovely to look at (sharing my childhood again).

When it’s just you and your junior reader, you can indulge in some semi-hopeful voice actor work. And oft-read picture books lend themselves to building up particular cadences, particular pauses that only you have worked out.

Sometimes, it can feel a little personal, doing your voices, working your own read aloud magic, with another adult in the room. Even if you are both your child’s readers.

Sometimes, I have been known to listen in from another room, just a little. You don’t get the cuddles or the sight of any pictures in the same way as the one being read aloud to.

But you do get the sense of being transported – and experiencing the working of the read aloud magic, both as the reader – and as the child.