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An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent

September 23rd, 2008 | Posted by Joe in reading | storytime | Tyler
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As I write this post – or at least begin to write this post – I am flying, I don’t know, about 30,000 feet above the Earth. If the plane crashes, I’m going to be very unhappy. I don’t enjoy thinking of my own mortality. But, now that I am responsible for both a wife and a son, well I just can’t help it. So what did I do when the friendly stewardess told us to “turn off and stow away all electronic devices until further notice”? Did I turn off and stow away my phone so that it wouldn’t cause any electronic disturbances with the flight equipment and gauges? Nope, I continued to blog from my Blackberry Smartphone. And what did I do while she demonstrated how to use an oxygen mask, and what to do in case of an emergency? I continued to blog, of course. It’s ok, though, right? I did turn off the wireless antenna afterall.

I guess we’ll find out in a little over an hour.

I love reading books to Tyler. I fully admit that I don’t do it enough, and have resolved to correct that. But, all the reading I do, I do silently. I haven’t read out loud in ages. I’ve read news stories to Sarah on occasion, but not very often. When it’s booktime with Tyler, I read 5 books to him, some books more than once. That’s a lot of reading out loud.

When I’m reading to myself (newspaper or internet), I read fast. I don’t exactly consider myself to be a speed reader, but it’s close to that. So, when I’m reading out loud to Tyler, my eyes are trying to move much quicker than my mouth. I keep getting tongue tied, and mixed around. It’s frustrating. I have to consciously slow myself down because I sound like the nervous kid in school who stumbles on every third or fourth word when reading to the class.

By the way, I HATE flying. I feel nauseated right now.

Back in school, when we had to “read aloud in class” (I question whether aloud is really a word, but I can’t look it up right now. But, that is how the teacher said it), I did so, and I did so pretty well – as far as enunciating and accuracy go. What I didn’t do was care. I was completely monotonic. I had no inflection in my voice. I sounded like the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, kinda like a robot. When I had to read as Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet (in-class reading, not a live play, thank God), every one of my sentences ended as a question because I couldn’t understand that crap. I remember feeling quite uncomfortable and stupid once, while reading as a character in class. I don’t remember the character or the book, but he was Canadian. Most of his sentences ended with “eh?”, which I now know is pronounced as “ay”. I didn’t know that then and kept saying the short E sound, like in the word “kept”.

What should have been, “You’re going to the store, ay?”

Instead was, “You’re going to the store, ehhh?”

The kids laughed and the stupid butthole of a teacher didn’t correct me. And were there many lines that ended like that, eh? Yah, dere were, donchaknow.

Anyway, when I read to Tyler, I find myself giving each character their own voice. My vocal impersonation of Grover isn’t even close to what it should be, but Tyler doesn’t seem to mind (yet). I also try to put emotion into their statements. And it’s extremely strange to me for 2 reasons. The first is the simple fact that I never thought I would do something like that. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. The other reason is that it felt completely natural. It may not make sense to you that I’m saying that something that feels quite natural feels quite strange BECAUSE it feels natural, but it’s true. It must be the next natural step into fatherhood, but knowing that I’ve never been like that previously is what made it strange. Clear as mud? Good, because I’m moving on. Stranger yet, to me at least, is that I don’t mind doing the voices or putting character into the story when Sarah’s with me. I expected that I would get nervous and shy, but it was fine. I can’t go so far as to say I wouldn’t feel slightly awkward out in public doing something like that, though. Part of me thinks that the general populous wouldn’t pay any mind, because I have a baby, and that’s what you do when you have a baby. But then I’ll read something like this, and wonder.

Another dilemma with giving each character their own voice is not always knowing which character is talking. If you’re going to write a children’s book, take note. Instead of:

“Let’s go to the park and play on the swings and shoot down the slide”, said Baby Bear, gleefully.

Use this:

Gleefully, Baby Bear said, “
Let’s go to the park and play on the swings and shoot down the slide”.

Written the former, I will possibly use the wrong voice or tone, embarrassing myself and confusing Tyler. Either that, or I’ll need to read ahead silently to see who’s speaking, creating uncomfortable pauses in the story, causing Tyler to think I’m “a little slow”.

Written the latter… NO CONFUSION, unless you don’t know what “gleefully” means. And in that case, you need help from someone with the letters “PhD” at the end of their name, not from me.

Just landed in Detroit. One more plane to Nashville now.

I honestly couldn’t tell you if my mommy or daddy read me stories when I was a baby. I have trouble remembering what I did 3 days ago. Trying to remember that far back is just not possible. They could have read to me hours and hours each day, but I just don’t know. It is completely possible though. I have no memory of being potty trained, but I’m sure I was. Aside from aiming issues here and then, I’m pretty versed in the ways of the toilet. Too much? Sorry.

The benefit of either not having story time, or not remembering story time, is that I’m reading all these stories for the first time. I’m reading Curious George to Tyler, secretly wondering how he’s going to get out of the mess he’s in, and wondering if the man in the yellow hat is going to find out about George’s shenanigans. Or, while reading Horton Hatches an Egg, wondering if it’s appropriate to read a story to him about a mother that abandons her baby. I guess it can’t be worse than old time favorites like Hansel & Gretel and its dabbling on cannibalism, or Goldilocks & the Three Bears where the entire storyline revolves around trespassing, burglary, theft, and destruction of private property.

At the end of the day, I’m fine with all of those stories. What I am not fine with is all the censoring that’s going on nowadays. I am appalled that Cookie Monster is no longer a Cookie Monster because cookies are a “sometimes food”. When I watched Tom & Jerry, they chased each other with hammers and knives and guns even. Not anymore though. That kind of content can’t be allowed to be seen by the impressionable children. Nevermind putting responsibility on the parents to teach their kids right from wrong; let’s have the television raise our kids and teach them morals. Pretty soon, sporting events will be taken off of daytime television because one team will be the loser, and you can’t have that. You just can’t let a child see somebody lose because “everybody’s a winner”, just like you can’t use red grading pens on kids’ papers now. Gimme a break.

But I enjoy reading to Tyler because we’re both hearing the story for the first time. That’s esentially the point of this post.

I’m getting ready to land now. I don’t want the landing gear to malfunction, so I guess it’s time I shut my phone off. I really would hate to be the subject of the news story “Man refuses to turn off phone on plane. 172 perish as a result”.

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