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The problem with short bedtime stories

20 Sep

My eldest son started “big boy” school this past August. The day he came home from school after his first trip to the library he exclaimed excitedly, “Mommy! That’s where aaaallllllllll the books are!” The kids each have their own library bags and when I opened his up to see what he’d borrowed I chuckled a little bit. If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with my son, you wouldn’t need to be a psychic to predict that he would have located the only book in the library that combined dinosaurs and football/soccer.

A week went by and I eagerly waited to see what he would bring home from the library. I admit, I was a little surprised when he came home with this.

Based on the famed Russian ballet of the same name, it tells the story of a king with three sons. The king discovers that someone, or something, is stealing the golden skinned apples from his tree and he offers a quarter of his kingdom as a reward to whomever brings him the thief. Full of mythical images and undertones, it is the youngest son who is cast as the hero.

So we read the story and he enjoyed it. It was quickly apparent that he was drawn to the book because of the illustrations. He really loved touching the picture of the firebird with the golden threads running through it. However, as the story was a little on the long side, I decided to read it over two nights. It struck me that we’d never before read a story at bedtime that couldn’t be finished in one go. And that got me thinking of the idea of delayed gratification.

When I was a kid, my bedtime stories were read from thick, hardcover books (like the complete tales of Winnie the Pooh). And even if the books were compilations of short stories, and my mom finished one of those stories, I always wanted more; because in my child’s mind the book wasn’t finished until you flipped the back cover over. I eagerly looked forward to bedtime. I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

In this ‘instant’ world that we now live in, I am going to be conscientiously on the look out for ‘big’ books that we can read together at night. I want my son to learn patience. I want him to experience healthy anticipation. I want him to learn that good things come to those who wait. But above all, I want him to always yearn to ask, “What’s next?”

Who is with me?

*On a side note, I’d really like to thank the librarian who didn’t say to my son, “Don’t take that book. It’s not for you.” That lover of books who didn’t tell my son that this book was too complicated, too grown-up or too difficult for him. Because of that book, mommy had a little epiphany.