A year-end review-score one for feeding the imagination

December 29, 2003

I feel like it's that time at the ballgame when the crowd yells, "Hey, you check out the scoreboard." It's time to look back at the year and what we've accomplished beyond eating, sleeping and working.

Well, there's that half-finished wallhanging laying near the sewing machine as evidence of one artistic endeavor. At least the whole winter lays ahead when people are supposed to curl up on the couches and ruin their eyes doing needlework.

Upstairs, the keyboard at the computer is cold. It has not been warmed by short stories pouring forth from my fingertips. The occasional idea springs to mind, but gets kicked into the background by so many other demands.

I guess the main demand is reading time. If we have accomplished nothing else, we've racked up a lot of points in reading on our scoreboard. My two children and I made a pledge to the elementary school that we would read each night. Reading time has become that special time before bed when we're transported to other worlds.


We've got our favorites that we could recite in our sleep. "The Foot Book" comes to mind. You could almost swear the 5-year-old could read as he repeats it line for line.

The 9-year-old has moved on to chapter books and marks down a chapter a night before settling in to hear me read something. I don't remember anyone reading to me when I was little, but I think I would have liked it, too.

Lately, we've been reading about "Fudge," a 5-year-old who lives in New York and gets into all sorts of scrapes. My son, being 5, I guess identifies with some of Fudge's thinking. He repeats lines from the book at other times during the day and we all laugh at our insider jokes, our shared knowledge of visits to Fudge's world.

Sometimes we read Patricia Polacco, an author my daughter's class has been studying. This woman has a ton of books and all of them have great stories about her childhood and family.

My daughter's teacher was reading one to the class about a horse and, as a horse lover, she couldn't finish for her tears over the horse's death. My daughter wanted to know the ending of the book, so I checked it out along with some others.

I had poked a little fun about the teacher crying, and then I began to read another one of Polacco's books only to find I was bawling uncontrollably. Talk about a good, cleansing experience - count on Polacco to provide it, over and over.

These are discoveries my daughter helped me make, but I was delighted when she expressed interest in some of my old favorites, such as "The Chronicles of Narnia." We haven't delved into this so much, but I can't wait for her to learn about his magical land. I think I'll enjoy reacquainting myself with Narnia, too.

Of course, my son does lose interest after awhile because of the lack of pictures. I have to admit, the illustrations are the best part of children's literature. They make the stories come alive and I often wish I could frame some of the pictures of these talented artists and put them on the wall.

After all this pleasurable reading comes the downside, the paperwork. The pledge involves logging each book read and how many pages and a parent's signature. The teachers must think I have the sloppiest handwriting in the world as I hastily record all this information the next morning before school.

I can't tell that all this reading carries over to other subjects. I still see some pretty wild spelling from the third-grader's phonetic little mind. The 5-year-old doesn't know how to spell yet, but he constantly interrupts the stories as he searches for the letters in his name as they're speckled across the page. Sometimes, it takes awhile, but it's his game.

So what if I haven't accomplished a lot of grownup tasks over the year. When I look back at the scoreboard and see the points we've racked up for imagination and creativity, I know we're winners.

Emily Toadvine is features editor

at The Advocate.|12/28/03***

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