Outdoor Stories

It goes almost without saying that the best thing you can do for your children's imaginations is to read aloud to them. I would guess that comes as no surprise to you; reading to your children is probably a part of your daily routine. But this week, I'd like to suggest a change of venue for your reading.

Try taking it outside.

My wife and I have read countless books to our four children; most of the readings have been in the cozy confines of our house. But one summer, I decided to make our setting fit the story.

We were reading The Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls. In it, a boy ventures down into a wooded creek-bed to try to capture an escaped monkey. I decided we ought to read it in similar surroundings. That was a little tricky. We had to leave our congested town and drive to a place where I knew a stream wound up into a wooded area. So on many mornings that summer, I packed our three boys into our van (my wife was in graduate school at the time), drove to the creek, hoisted our youngest into his baby back-pack and led the two other boys up into the dark, secluded gully.

I can still so clearly picture that scene. As the two older boys explored the shale-lined stream, I read aloud. My voice seemed unnaturally loud in the stillness of the woods. Even louder were my occasional yelps of pain as my youngest played tug-of-war with my hair. Sunlight dappled the ferns that overhung the banks. There was a kind of magic in the air - a spell that seemed to intertwine fiction and reality. Our imaginations began to truly grasp the story. We would not have been at all surprised if a monkey had landed with a splash next to us.

Recently, I wrote about using all our senses to enjoy the gifts of the world around us. I hope that by finding a spot outdoors to read aloud, you'll pull in all your child's senses to enjoy the gift a good story.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter