And then, finally, we came to The Way Back Home, back to where it all began. Immediately I found myself choking up.
“Brilliant, Dad, brilliant. That’s my favourite book ever.”
“Shall I read it to you one more time,” I suggested, “just for fun?”
“No Dad, no! I’ll read it to you.”
And so he did:
“Once – there – was – a boy – and – one – day – as he – was – put – ting – his – things – back – in – his – cup?… cup?… cup – board …”
I melted into a sobbing wreck and had to stifle my tears so he wouldn’t notice – just as I am now, writing this. But there was no need to hide because Noah was already in another world, the world of words: gone, transported to a place only he knows – his interpretation of whatever it is those words were giving him. His voice was the narrator, his mind was the producer, his eyes were the cameraman; he was the costume designer, the lighting technician and all the actors rolled into one.
So please, parents – read to your children. Ideally at night, just before they drift off into the glorious, deep sleep of the innocent. Cuddle up and breathe together by the comforting glow of the bedside light in the darkness of winter, or while trying to hide your eyes from the blinding light of a late spring or early autumn setting sun. It will help them understand how an “ee” at the end of a word turns a hard “aa” into an “ay”, or how a “t” and “h” mysteriously morph into a “th”, sounding completely different.
If nothing else, you should do it because eventually they will read to you, not only because they’re told to or it’s their reading book from school, but because they want to. And you will not believe how extraordinarily beautiful and life-affirming that feels.