Thursday, 5 February 2009

The children's story

Caleb is helping me rediscover a different form of bedtime stories. He has never been interested in sitting with me and reading children's stories, as they are popular today (think Goodnight Moon, Robert Munsch, Little Critter, etc.) no matter the colour, size or involvement, he just couldn't care less. So instead of stories I started singing extra songs. Caleb loves music, but more often than not singing got him riled up, not calmed down for sleep.

Then, out of the blue last week, with the lights turned off and Caleb snuggled into my arms, I started reciting poetic narratives. I started with "Wynken, Blynken and Nod", then moved onto "Marsupial Sue." It worked like a charm. Caleb listened quietly to the rhythmic tones and was lulled into a peaceful state.

At this point I realized my memory bank is noticeably empty of many other ballads of the like. I recalled a few songs, like "A poor, wayfaring man of grief" that work lovely in spoken word. But all of a sudden I felt a yearning to dig into some old story books and add a few more tales to my repertoire.

It also got me thinking about the evolution of children's stories. The children's book as we know it now - generally a few lines a page, and often very didactic (visibly teaching some sort of lesson, this being its main goal). Pure imagination, or stories simply for stories' sake seem to have gone by the wayside. But more than that, children's stories of centuries gone by were generally only designated such because of their subject matter. Children would devour poetic rhymes of great length, and be lost in tales that filled page upon page in books. It seems even our literature has adapted to our culture of instant gratification and limited attention span.

I hope to reintroduce my children to the world of poetry through story. I can't wait for the day when (coming sooner than you might expect) when I can read from chapter books at bedtime, baiting my children's anticipation of tomorrow night's installment. There is an entire world to rediscover and I am excited to be on this adventure with my children.

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