You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a Mother who read to me. — Strickland Gillian
I love this poem. I am the homeschooling mother of ten children, and cannot count the number of hours I have spent reading to them. But events of this past week have brought home to me that a child with a mother who reads to him is not the only one blessed. The mother who reads to her children is blessed, too.
We have always had a ritual of reading before bedtime. As my family grew, and there were more and more children clamoring for books, I decided that if I were going to spend up to an hour reading every night, I needed to read books I enjoyed too. So I began to introduce my children to the classics. Soon, we were reading chapter books. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was one of our favorites. We went though the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series was a special favorite of my boys, and I loved them, too.
I even learned that if I told the kids I would read as long as they would scratch my back, some of them would scratch for a long time in exchange for extra chapters. It was an amazing bonding time. I would have children almost out of their teens lying on the end of my bed, their long legs hanging off onto the floor as they lay on their backs and listened to me read.
My children all grew up to love reading. Our book collection has grown big enough to need a room of its own. We added a couch and big pillows and call it the library. I think we are very rich: rich in reading material that can take us out of the small Texas town we live in, and let us travel around the world and back in time. Even Abraham Lincoln went to school only one year, and then educated himself by lying in front of his fireplace, reading. My children have grown up to do very well, and I give much credit to the reading we have done over the years, especially at night, all together.
But my children are not the only ones who have benefited. Less than a week ago, my father died after a three month long illness. My three sisters, my mother and I circled his bed as he took his last breaths, patting him, kissing him, and telling him we loved him. For especially the last month, we had spent many hours at his bedside as the end drew near, and I was not there to read to my children as we comforted my father and ourselves during his last days.
In the hours after we lost him, in the overwhelming grief of knowing we would not see our wonderful patriarch again in this life, I had an ache to be home, reading to my children. I called and told my older son and daughter, who were watching their younger siblings, to keep them up until I got there. I stayed with my mother and sisters as long as I could stay without missing bedtime, then I rushed home.
And I read to my children. I read through my tears, my voice trembling, and I had to stop and breathe deeply a few times just to be able to continue. My father was gone, but his legacy lives on in his grandchildren. And I took great comfort in our old ritual. Because no one is richer than me, as I read to my children.