My flight to LA to appear on the Kelly Clarkson Show was packed. I was in the three-seat section along with a nice young couple. After a few hours in the air, it was apparent that she was pregnant. He was glowing and reached over occasionally to pat her tummy. She brought along plenty of healthy food, and shared her delicious figs with me.
Halfway into the flight I leaned over with a smile and asked when the baby was due. “January!”, they both said.
I couldn’t help myself. I knew what I had to do. The conversation went something like this:
“Would you like to know the best thing you can do for your child?”
“Yes! Please tell us!” Their eyes were as big as saucers.
“Read aloud to your child. You can start now, before the baby is born. Goodnight Moon is the book you need to get. Right away.”
“Wait, wait! I have to write this down.” He pulled out his phone and went to ‘notes’.
“I’m a preschool teacher in Massachusetts. I recite this book every day to children before I begin chapter reading. It’s rhythmic and rhyming. Children love this book.”
“Chapter reading?, to preschoolers?”
“Yes. When your baby is born, read all the time. Music is also wonderful, especially classical music.”
“We’re both musicians. I play the guitar and my wife plays the flute.”
My goodness! We talked about music, art, playing in mud and sand, what to look for in a school, and I told them about the Eric Carle Museum. This couple was over the moon with everything I had to say. I remember the husband’s ‘lightbulb moment’, when he understood that a child can’t move forward and learn in school without hearing words and stories.
“Jennie, would you please quit your job and come and teach our child?” How nice!
As we left the plane, they kept yelling out thank-yous and reaching out to me. That’s as good as it gets.
Yes, I recite Goodnight Moon every day before chapter reading. I sometimes do it ‘the silly way’, substituting children’s names into the story. I even do a “Goodnight Moon Rap”
The return flight from LA was also packed, and I was in a three-seat section, along with a mom and her 10-year-old son. They were quiet and friendly. Every time they had to get up they apologized. No worries, I kept telling them. On this flight I had to finish reading the books the library had given me to review for Book Bears. I host a library reading group every month, plus a read-aloud group. It was peace and quiet to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed Gooseberry Park and the Master Plan.
As I was ready to put the book away, I looked over at the 10-year-old boy. His head was down in a video game of some sort. He had been a kind child on the flight, but he had not seemed happy.
Yes, I knew what I had to do. Again. I couldn’t help myself.
I leaned forward. “Would you like to read a really good book? I just finished it. It’s so good!”
He looked up, and he smiled a big smile. It took him only seconds to put away his video stuff. I could tell he was excited. I handed the book over and he settled in for a great read. His mom was teary-eyed. “Thank you. He plays too many video games. Thank you so much.” She touched my arm and smiled.
As the flight continued, I kept glancing over to the boy. He was absorbed in the book and looked happy. When the flight landed, his mom took a photo of the book so he could get it at the library and finish reading. Three people were very happy; it was a hat trick.
Never underestimate the power of a good book and reading aloud.