Kids' Nooks: Room to explore, from Israel

"Quite often I find (my kids) fallen a sleep with a book still in their hands. I hope that helps them dream beautiful dreams." Trine Ben Aish

It certainly makes a book more delicious to read when we don't know where we are going in the story. All the more wondrous when, at the end of a book, we are left breathless with excitement for what we've experienced.

Image of favorite books by Trine Ben Aish, who lives in Moshav in Central Israel

This second installment of my kids' reading nook series is a treat for precisely this reason. Trine Ben Aish is a Danish mom and booklover who approaches the reading habits of her three boys (a set of three-year-old twins and one two-year-old) in much the same, open-ended way. Her boy's reading spaces are areas in their home that have developed organically into places to sit down and thumb through a book: Trine observes where her boys spend their time, then leaves books out for them to enjoy. I picture her as a Fairy Godmother of Books, her gentle guidance paving the way for a lifetime of happiness with books.

I asked Trine to write two or three sentences on reading and she sent me this wonderful essay. Believe me, it's time well-spent to read her thoughts on this issue, especially for those of us in the United States whose kids are caught up in endless rounds of standardized testing. This essay as well as her writings on her blog, Et Lille Oejeblik, are an inspiration to those of us who treasure imperfections as a result of a life well-lived and well-loved.

by Trine Ben Aish

I love books, not just the because they take me to beautiful places, fill me with good stories, and teach me so much about the world and myself. I love books for their potential and their power to transform individuals, as well as society. I love books for what they promise, maybe even more than I love the books themselves.

I hope my three boys will grow to love books, too, because this love will give them so much in return. But I want this love to be something they feel they found and came to love in a natural way.

I only started to read books to them when they themselves began to reach out for the books. Actually, I didn’t really read to them. We pretty much just talked and pointed at images and pictures. To a certain extent, this non-disciplinary way of reading has continued to this day.

Even now, they will ask lots of questions when we read, interrupt and start talking about things to come. They’ll impatiently ask me to go to the next page if they know their favorite part is coming up. I am not always happy about this because they should be able to follow the intended flow, partly since it might open their eyes to something they otherwise wouldn’t have realized. And partly because there are three of them, and if everyone wants a certain page, then there’s really no point in reading together.

On the other hand, I also like the way they approach books: open-minded, no rules and cherishing favorite parts. Isn’t that what we all love about reading? Those sentences that make everything clear and express exactly what we feel? Open up our minds and hearts?

To be honest, we don’t have that much reading aloud. I find it hard to create those moments of peace and calm that reading requires, with all three at once. It can be hard to find the time for some one-on-one reading time, with three little kids in the house.

Instead, I am encouraging them to read the books they love on their own when they feel like it. I find that the best way to do this is to make books available on those places where they most often spend their time.

One such place is our kitchen: an open space area combined with the living room, the hall and opening up to our porch. Here, I have placed a little table with a book collection. I change the books in this area quite often according to what I know will catch their attention. We also have a book collection in the shelf between their rooms, and I make sure they have some of their favorite books next to their beds.

Sometimes, I will read a bit to them of the books they know and love, then hand it over for them to continue. Or remind them about a part of the book they really like, and get them started flipping through the book and look at the images of the parts they love the most. I can almost see how they read the book in their mind. Quite often, I find them fallen a sleep with a book still in their hands. I hope that helps them dream beautiful dreams.

I am constantly introducing them to classics from my own childhood. It makes me happy to read the books I used to love as a child, and it is important to me that they get this part of my culture and language.

See, I am Danish, my husband is Israeli and we’re living in Israel. As much as I feel at home here, I want my children to understand me, not just literally by speaking my native language. I want them to know what I come from, to know my culture. In my opinion, this understanding begins with the humor and puns of the nursery rhymes, the playing with words and the representation of everyday life in the first books.

They all have different favorite toys. J loves animals, N loves wheels, speed and powerful machines, and little D loves, well, to play with his brothers' toys. These interests are reflected in their choice of books, but there are certain things that they all seem to agree is exciting reading: The drama when a kid gets hurt, is comforted and maybe has to go to the doctor. Or, if a child is doing something he or she wasn’t supposed to do or not behaving well, and a parent, teacher or friend tells them it was wrong. Or – oh the drama - a friend gets hurt or is sad.

All those things that they deal with themselves everyday. Come to think of it, those things we all deal with in life: friendship, love, happiness and pain, and how to do the right thing.


Anna said...

this is a wonderful post and essay by trinsch! it is so important to think about language and reading in the way she describes.

i also love this project. books are amazing! and children's books are so thought provoking and mind expanding, for children and adults alike.

kristina * said...

beautifully put. i love trinsch' way of putting things so simply and deeply at the same time. (that's also why i love her blog - go and read :) !)

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