No Better Legacy

Jun 01, 2018 | Posted by Jennifer


The month of June marks Father’s Day in the United States. Fathers are vitally important to the raising of healthy, happy children. One of the ways fathers contribute to their children’s development is by sitting down and reading aloud to their children. In prior years we asked our readers to share photos of Dad sitting with his children, sharing a book. This year we have created a Facebook event to share with you. During the event we will randomly choose five winners to receive a $50 IEW gift certificate. We look forward to seeing all your wonderful photos of this most special time of the day, when Dad and children gather together for story time.

In the following piece, I hope to transport you back to my childhood days growing up in rural Kansas, where my grandma shared her love of storytelling, and challenge you to leave the same legacy of reading aloud to your children.


No Better Legacy

I would like to share a very special memory with you. Growing up, I never had my parents read a book aloud to me. Never did I hear my mother’s sweet voice read Goodnight Moon. My father never sat down with me to share Dr. Seuss. It never happened. But I wish it had.

Instead, my first memory of being read to is by my grandma. When my sister and I were tiny, my parents would drop us off at Grandma and Grandpa’s country house to stay the night. Dad would drive the car up Grandma and Grandpa’s long, sand-covered driveway. Sometimes we would have to sit and wait for a train to cross because the train tracks bisected their lane. As the train’s whistle faded away, Dad would drive the car across the tracks and we would wind our way up the hill about a mile back to the small white farmhouse.

Grandma was a farmer’s wife then, but before she had married into that life, she had been a teacher in a small, single-room school on the Kansas prairie. My sister and I loved to visit her. We would help her wash the dishes in the deep farm sink, catch and be scratched by the wild farm cats who skulked in the barn, and help her shuck the long green bean pods in her garden. After an evening bath in the house’s only bathroom, we would crawl into the rollaway bed arranged in the parlor, the only room that was air conditioned. On one side of the room was a low, built-in bookshelf running the length of the room that held Grandma’s few children’s books amongst the broader fare of Louis L’Amour westerns. She would pull out our favorite, a worn and dusty cloth-bound collection of short pieces that included “Henny Penny,” “The Bremen Town Musicians,” and several other tales. It was one of Grandma’s volumes from her teaching days.

Against the hum of the window unit and the distant music of the coyotes howling in the darkness outside of the home, Grandma’s voice brought life to these tales. It was our favorite time of the day. Tired out from a long day on the farm, my sister and I would fight sleep to make it to the end of one story and beg Grandma for “just one more.” Eventually we would lose the battle. The Sandman would inevitably come, and we’d drift off to sleep, tucked up warm and safe and sound.

Grandma has long since left the earth, and the old white farmhouse is now abandoned, but the memory of my time spent listening to her read to my sister and me is crystallized in my heart. It has become a part of who I am, for out of those experiences, I grew to love books, love reading, and love literature. Most importantly, they drove my commitment to share my love of the written word with my own children when they were born. Before they could even hold their tiny heads up, I read to them all the books I wish my parents had read to me. Our favorites (and I could tell my children loved them as much as I did!) were anything written by Leo Leonni, Margaret Wise Brown, and Beatrix Potter. I read to my children often and for long periods. I kept a basket next to my rocking chair filled with books that I could dip into without having to disrupt the moment by getting up.

Those sweet days, too, are a distant memory. My oldest is nearly finished with his English and philosophy degree. My middle child graduates from high school this spring, and my youngest just started her first college English class. Even so, I still read aloud to them. During the Christmas break, we all enjoyed reading aloud Sherlock Holmes’s first adventure, “A Study in Scarlet.” Presently my daughter and I are enjoying Jane Austen’s Emma. We curl up on the couch, heads tilted towards one another as I read about Emma and her innocent overconfidence. It is one of our favorite moments of the day. If my daughter ever feels stressed or tired, her first request is that we spend some time sharing the story together.

Out of everything I have done for my children, I contend that our time spent together reading aloud has been the most vital. Reading aloud to my children, aside from imparting sophisticated vocabulary and syntax, has given us all so much more. It has created an unbreakable bond and a unified family identity. I can easily imagine my children many years from now sharing their own childhood reading memories with their own children. I have no doubt that they will remember the books, poems, and stories we read aloud with great fondness. And even better, they will continue the tradition in their own families. I can think of no better legacy.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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