Growing up on a mountain with few neighbors and no siblings, reading became my main source of entertainment. Especially during summers, when I would want to hide from the list of chores that my mother would devise for me to do, books let me escape. Even if she found me, she was sometimes loath to interrupt me since she saw reading as a strong part of education.
As a mother, I follow that same mantra. It is hard for me to sit on my hands and not dictate a thousand titles that my daughters should read. Titles that swept me away at their age. They do read, probably more than the average child, but they have each other and an unlimited amount of TV shows and movies when allowed to have screen-time. Reading to them is casual entertainment and not the longed-for companionship that I craved.
But this week, I found direct evidence of reading as a source of enrichment. During the past school year, while we homeschooled due to Covid, I “assigned” the book, Sarah Plain and Tall, to one of my daughters to read and discuss. Each week, we read a few more chapters and chatted about what was going on in the story. By the end of the so-called semester, my daughter had finished the book, and as a family, we watched the movie as a treat. There is a scene – in both book and movie – where Sarah trims the hair of the children. She takes the cut hair and lets it run through her fingers and out into the field, so the birds could use it for their nests.
As the weather began to warm up, the girls brushed our dog, Necco, who has thick white fur. They took the piles of fur, and like the character in the book, let it fly out into the field rather than just stuffing it into the trash. This week, while walking along the tree line, I came across a bird’s nest that had been blown out of a tree.
The base is thick with twigs, but lining the inside, where the eggs would lay, is the smooth white fur of Necco. I carried the nest in to show to the girls. With tiny fingers, they traced over the fur lining, and in delight, they said, “Just like the book.”
Yes, I thought, just like the book.