One of my favorite books is These Girls, by Sarah Pekkanen. At one point in the story, one of the main characters, Abby, talks about her love for early childhood development, as she is studying that in college. She says, “…experiences we have as young children can form pathways in our brains. They’re kind of like road maps, guiding our reactions to things that happen in the future. I love learning about how people are formed.”
There are moments when reading a really good book, where the words just sort of jump off of the page.
This was one of these moments, and it was so fitting given the experience I had just had at school.
In the chaos of everyday life, I think that we often forget how impressionable children can be, and how sometimes, the smallest things make a difference…like…bedtimes stories.
Bedtime stories. I think bedtime stories were a highlight of my childhood. I’ve actually written essays about how, at a certain point, my mother said that there were no books allowed at the dinner table. I always had my head in a book, to the point where I would choose reading over dinner conversation. Bedtime stories, to me, where magical. Is that silly? Perhaps. Do they work wonders? I think so. The brightest students I’ve had, the most interesting adults that I come across, were all read to as young children. Are my findings based on a scientific experiment? No, they are just based on my life experiences as both an adult and a teacher.
I distinctly remember a particular class this past school year, where my students just weren't getting the material…
We were discussing the YA novel Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and they were having trouble with the concepts and ideas in the novel. To me, this was rather frustrating, as this was not a "hard" piece of literature. I was not asking them to read War and Peace; I was asking them to read a YA novel geared towards reluctant readers. The text was completely within their grasp, and yet, getting them to have higher thinking discussions was like pulling teeth.
Was it laziness? Actual confusion? A combination of both perhaps?
I don't know what possessed me to ask, but I posed this question to my class: "How many of you were read to when you were younger? Like, bedtime stories..."
Out of a class of fifteen, one student raised his hand.
I was floored.
I shifted gears and tactics, because, well, something had to give and I needed to try a different approach. But, the fact that my students never experienced bedtime stories, well, that stayed with me. It’s important to take the time to do the little things, for we never know how that will shape someone’s future.