the island of yummy: how reading to your children is nourishing

by rebecca on January 24, 2010

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      There is nothing that glues me to my children like reading.  I can be in the foulest mood but with a child in each arm and a book open on my lap, the poison is melted by the other place we’re visiting and the soothing rhythm of speaking someone else’s words aloud. 

      Nothing nourished me in the early years of parenting as completely as reading to my children. I was often impatient with changing outfits for the third time because of explosive poop, tying a wiggly toddler’s shoes or going at a snail’s pace through the grocery store. I got to the end of some days hungry and tired. My temper was water cracker thin. The world was an open sea, tearing at my clothes, tossing me about and I felt like I was constantly swimming through breaking waves.

      Too tired to do anything else, I fell onto my bed, and began to open, one by one, a stack of books I kept there. Those little board books sat ready to feed me the sustenance I needed to continue on the marathon journey that is motherhood. We lay on our backs; the book held above our heads, safe on the Island of Yummy, where I ate and was fed.

      The words were the same each day. Opposites, Goodnight Moon, Look at the Duck, The Shapes Book; I devoured them all; over and over again.

      Stories took us on a journey to another land; an island, free from the commotion of diaper changes and meltdowns. Later in life, they freed us from the hassles of homework and arguments about whose turn it was to empty the dishwasher. No matter how bad it got, a story could always bring us back together, snuggled close under a bevy of covers, protected by a layer from the outside world. We made our own cocoon.

      Reading with my children is a place I find my church. It’s where my skin becomes soft and my soul is transported. My family talks and giggles and comes together as we travel somewhere else reading a book. It is where Love is born; on my bed, floating in a world a scrumptious abandon.

       We graduated from board books to picture books to chapter books to novels. When we could no longer agree on books, the Island of Yummy at least was firmly established as a place of refuge and we’d gather there for card games or backrubs, to look at pictures on my computer or simply to chat and giggle. Sometimes long talks would unfold there underneath a safe layer of covers.

       I’ve made many, many mistakes as a mother. One thing I got really right was floating my way onto the Island of Yummy. I need the safety zone of a delicious spot that nurtures me back to fed as much as anyone else in my family.

       Do you have an island of refuge for those moments when your temper might break you in half and leave the crumbs of your personhood scattered on the floor? I’d love to hear about how you put yourself and your family back together.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa January 29, 2010 at 12:40 am

I’ve been waiting for this article…. I remember your island, I remember your books, and tea…

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Sue Ann Gleason April 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Oh yes! I was never blessed with children of my own but as a former first grade teacher I had so many hours on the island of yummy surrounded by wide-eyed rapture as those little faces watched and wondered at the words that spilled from my lips. I LOVE picture books but even without those glorious pictures the words captivated their attention. (And mine.) I had baskets and bins and boxes of books all over that room. I was the first teacher to hire a UHaul to transport my collection from one school to another. Oh how we laughed. Thank you for sharing this post with me. I’ll bet we have some books in common!

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rebecca April 8, 2013 at 3:56 pm

My sister does not have children of her own, but is a dance teacher to many. She has a way of moving their bodies and helping them make friends with their growing limbs much the way I would guess you’ve helped many children make friends with the stories they have inside. As a mother I cannot thank the two of you enough! I could never have done this job of raising children alone. “It takes a village,” right? I have relied on the teachers in my children’s lives to fill in the gaps I couldn’t fill myself. Many of them have come alongside me and, magically, known just what bridges to create so my children could cross over where I left them hugging a beach on one side of a lake or river.

Teachers knew how to see the other side and gently guide my children to a new place with adventures and stories so that the NEW didn’t seem so frightening to them (or me!). THANK YOU!!

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