Reading adventure

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo August 31,2019 - 07:05 AM

August ends today as if it never started. 

It looks like the world is in a hurry to get to the ‘ber’ months. Tomorrow, September 1, Christmas “begins” in the Philippines. 

At home, the letters for Santa Claus have been written as early as June. 

“I don’t really know how to see you. The North Pole is a faraway place. So maybe we can meet for lunch and I can talk to you?” wrote Antoinette, the words she probably got from reading three books a day. 

She’s been asking me to spell longer words. ‘Understand’ has been on top of the list along with ‘shivered’ and ‘appropriate.’ 

While her brothers are building model airplanes and taking pieces of their car toys apart, Antoinette reads. At six years old, she reads three books a day. Not all of them are storybooks; some are prayer books and short poems. 

Her siblings have turned to Antoinette to help them write letters to Santa Claus. In those letters, my mutants have requested for bicycles. Nicholas is careful to write the correct spelling as Antoinette told him that a misspelled word will have an impact on his request. JJ produced zigzags and swirls and said he will ask Dad to call Santa. 

But Antoinette is persistent on writing because, according to her, Santa only reads wishes from letters and not through phone calls. 

After they write these letters, they would hurriedly go up to our room and hand them over to Dad. Because Dad saw Santa when Dad was a kid, the three believe that Santa listens to Dad more than Mommy. (My husband actually saw his Daddy dressed in Santa costume on Christmas eve. The memory still brings him warm feeling about Christmas up to this day.)

After all, Nicholas says, the Philippines does not have a chimney so how did Santa get into my house when I was a kid and left all those presents? 

The three children agreed that he was in a jeepney, stopped in front of our house, opened our gate and picked on the lock to get in. I don’t know now if they’re describing the plump man in red suit or a possible burglar/thief. 

Reading has made these children’s imagination run wild and free. While they are not completely ignorant to the idiot rectangle that is the tab or the smartphone, reading is a hobby that my husband and I have been influencing them with. 

We make sure that they catch us reading. Our brown coach, which now looks like a remnant of World War II because of all the scratches and tears, is a witness to all the read-aloud sessions and the many times we’ve drawn book characters and coloring them. 

A diligent reader is a better writer. Unknowingly, without even intending to learn anything, reading teaches us how to create metaphors, build sentences or develop structures. This exercise is good for both children and adults.

At the recently concluded Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, I came home after three visits with about 30 books; 20 of them are for the children and 10 are for me. Jeff, my husband, purchased four books on zombies. 

As we were going through all the books, JJ said he would like to have the Superman book (bought for P90) and the Good Dinosaur book (P160). The three-year-old “reads” with pictures these days. It’s a good start to building the habit of reading. Literacy, according to my readings from graduate school on Language and Literacy Education, actually begins with the proper way of holding a book and of the realization that the eye movement for reading is left to right, top to bottom. 

Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere, once said  that “there are no bad authors for children,” that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different.

“They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to someone encountering it for the first time. You don’t discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing.”

I love this. 

It applies to adults, too. 

I despise the snobbery exuded by some pretentious literati that they only read the ones written by the likes of Fitzgerald, Tolstoy or Wharton. Or that they only read the ones which won Pulitzer prizes. 

I read books which were recommended to me; which I saw on the shelf or a pile because the cover looks pretty; which my favorite authors read. 

Gaiman says, “Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer them to read. And not everyone has the same taste as you.” 

The excerpt below, still from Gaiman, I love dearly and serves as my reminder when buying books with my children. 

“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the twenty- first-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

With the war we have against gadgets, in pulling our children’s attention away from those electronic distractions, I have been consciously teaching my children that reading will take them places. Along with reading, we go outdoors to camp and run and jump. 

Save for times when they are sick, as is the case this week with all three of them down with a fever from a viral infection, we always find time to go out and explore. 

As August wraps up today, I have my eyes set on the newly-opened Ocean Park in Cebu as the site for the next outdoor hop. 

It’s the beginning of the Christmas season, I can smell it in the air. 

I can also smell another adventure brewing.

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