The Lesson in Tonight’s Bedtime Story That Was Clearly Meant For Me

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There is a lot to be learned through reading aloud.

With three kids under one roof, my wife and I have developed nightly ‘pre-bed’ rituals. Strict routines. Electronics off at 6 p.m., sit-down dinner (with music) at 6:30, showers and baths at 7, the brushing of teeth at 8, read alouds in bed with a glass of milk at 8:30, asleep before 9 p.m.

It is a pattern that must never be broken.

Sydney, my nine-year-old, gets read to first, probably because she’s always the first to fall asleep. The middle child, she has developed a taste for books filled with drama and devious female protagonists. She loves snappy dialogue and comical plot sequences. She craves constant action and characters who take chances. She is fond of short chapters, sass, irreverence, and “bucking the system.”

I know Sydney better through her choice of books.

Next in the read aloud circuit comes my eldest, Sebastian. He is 11 and has been known to read straight through the night. He has also come down to my bed at two o’clock in the morning in order to discuss the controversial ending to a book he just finished.

He appreciates a main character who thinks deeply about the world, rule followers who are also not afraid to stand up for themselves, protagonists who value loyalty, respect, friendship, and love. He appreciates resiliency. He does not shy away from a long book with long chapters and small print. He reads ravenously. He loves to illustrate the books after he is done reading them.

I know Sebastian better through his choice of books.

And then there is Ellie, the youngest, and the last to be read to. At four years of age, I am still assessing Ellie as a reader – her likes and dislikes, her passions, her desires. Her hopes, her dreams.

I will know Ellie better through her choice of books.

Tonight, I have disrupted the routine. I have broken the golden rule. I am reading out of order. Ellie first. I am reading loudly to her, and after a moment, I feel Sydney slide in bed next to us, followed by Sebastian moments later. No one talks. No one interrupts. It is me with the three, like moths to the flame. The book burns eternal in the center, illuminating us all.

It is a rare evening when we are all on the same page.

Tonight’s book is entitled “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca. It is the seemingly simple story of a young princess (in training), who wishes to break free of her humdrum, daily schedule, which involves boring lessons, running around the dungeon gym, and (not one, not two, but) three baths in which she scrubs,…

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