When school ended, my husband announced he wanted to start a family read aloud. Every evening before bed, he wanted to share a few chapters from one of his favorite books, WATERSHIP DOWN. If you’ve never read it before, here’s the premise:
The story follows a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer. As they search for a safe haven, skirting danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band and its compelling culture and mythos. Adams has crafted a touching, involving world in the dirt and scrub of the English countryside, complete with its own folk history and language (the book comes with a “lapine” glossary, a guide to rabbitese). As much about freedom, ethics, and human nature as it is about a bunch of bunnies looking for a warm hidey-hole and some mates, Watership Down will continue to make the transition from classroom desk to bedside table for many generations to come. –Paul Hughes
Did you catch that first sentence, the one about this book being taught in high school? My boys are seven and nine. I was pretty skeptical about their interest in this big, fat, difficult book.
But guess what? We finished last weekend.
My little guy didn’t get every scene, but he followed a surprising amount of the story and often finessed a second or third chapter out of my husband. My nine-year-old (who loves to read but often needs to be pushed to pick up challenging books he hasn’t read before) finished before the family did. He’s gone on to read TALES FROM WATERSHIP DOWN, too.
How did these guys not only hang in there through page-long descriptions of England’s verdant copses, but also embrace the story enough to add rabbits Hazel, Big Wig, and Fiver to their playtime conversations?
Because Dad shared a story he loved.
I really and truly think this was the magic behind our summer experiment.
Jennifer Shirk says
That is such a wonderful idea!
(I love that your hubby is a reader, too)
Such a nice memory for your kids. I think I may have to do that with my family too.
Thanks for sharing.
Natalie Aguirre says
That’s great they liked it. Sometimes when they are read to, they can handle longer stories we think are too old for them.
Andrea Mack says
Very cool! It reminds me of how I used to read aloud with my girls…maybe I should get a book started again!
Piedmont Writer says
I remember reading this a long time ago, perhaps not in high school but not long after. I loved it, until… (I won’t give the spoiler) and I cried like a baby. I remember hating it after that and never wanting to finish the ending. But I did. Maybe I should have another go at it and see if I’ve changed my mind.
And that’s wonderful that your husband takes the time to read to his children. He must be a very special man indeed.
This is great! My husband reads to our 3yo whenever he’s home and I think she’s the same and gets excited because he’s sharing something he loves, with her.
Stephanie Cheryl says
Fabulous idea. Glad your sons enjoy reading! 🙂
Evelyn Campbell Curtis says
I read books like that to my girls. My husband is not big on reading, and I don’t think he would be interested in doing such a thing. But it is a good bonding time for my girls and myself.
I was disappointed to not read Watership Down in high school. I transferred schools for one semester and missed the book. I have it on my list to read though. I remember my brother really liking it.
Jemi Fraser says
You sure hit the key – it’s all about sharing a book you love. I did this a lot with my kids when they were younger and of course I do it all the time in my classroom. Love it!
Valerie Geary says
This made my heart smile. 🙂
Caroline Starr Rose says
Evelyn, I didn’t read it until college, at my (now) husband’s suggestion.
It was a fun break during finals week.
A.L. Sonnichsen says
My mom gave me this book as a present when I was a little girl, but I couldn’t get through it. Maybe the magic is in its being read aloud. I wonder if I still have that copy….
Thanks for the lovely post!
Ted Cross says
I’ve been reading to my boys all their lives. People underestimate the interest/comprehension levels of kids all the time. My boys were 9 and 11 when I read them ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and they loved them.
Solvang Sherrie says
I have never read Watership Down but I love that your husband did the reading. How very cool that he shared this book with his boys. I’m usually the one reading aloud in this family.
Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist says
Family read-a-longs are probably THE thing I am most looking forward to when I (someday) become parent. I want to do The BFG and A Wrinkle in TIme and Harry Potter and…and…and! I could go on and on.
P.S. How’s super Monk-Mode coming along?
Caroline Starr Rose says
This was the first time the four of us all read together (outside of nightly Bible stories). Dan reads to the boys, but I do the bulk of the read alouds. It was magical! We all looked forward to the evenings.
Ted, so true about comprehension. When I was in school, I learned that kids could easily comprehend two reading levels above their own if they heard it aloud.
This book was also a lesson in big picture thinking. My boys didn’t get all the minute description of the English countryside (half of the plants I didn’t know myself!), but they got the story. I think we worry (at least those of us who used to be teachers…me) that comprehension means every little detail, when that doesn’t have to be the case.
Rebecca, Super Monk Mode is going splendidly. I spent all afternoon yesterday wrapping my author questionnaire and have just returned from a four-hour edit session at Starbucks. And you??
I did the same thing with my step girls. Was great fun to share my fav childhood books. We read Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When the movie came out, we all went to watch it as a family.
Mark Smith says
What a great idea. I’m glad to hear your boys got into that book — one that I now want to read! Not having children (yet, DV), I’ll have to wait to do this, but hopefully will be able to see 2 young nephews soon and get to read with them.
I think telling stories, whether planned or extemporaneous, can also be good. When I was little, Dad would tell my brother and me stories about pirates and their adventures off the Outer Banks of NC. Most of the Pirate Stories were told when we lived far from there in NW Washington State. It was magical; we often say we wish we had recorded the stories and typed them up later.