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Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHornBook


The Family Who Reads Together, Cries Together

When I first began reading Patricia MacLachan’s Sarah, Plain, and Tall books aloud to my daughter years ago, I knew I was in trouble. During the first book, my voice cracked with emotion simply because of how beautiful the story is. Small arms indulgently encircled me to comfort me in my moment of vulnerability. By the final book, we huddled together and cried as death came to the Witting family. My read-aloud skills were no match for this, and my own nature—often described as overly sensitive—couldn’t simply power through. But I thought it was good for her to see that books, and life, could sometimes make even the strong parental types break down in tears.

Over the years, lots of books have had similarly powerful effects on us, and we’ve gotten through them all together. From Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars to Gloria Houston and Barbara Cooney’s holiday masterpiece, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, we’ve shed a lot of tears.

Then there was Charlotte’s Web. I tip my hat to teachers, parents, and librarians everywhere who can read this aloud in a calm, clear voice. I cried multiple times over the nights I read this story to my daughter, and as the book went on, she began to join me. In the end, it turned into a mutual sobfest as we lost a spider oh-so-dear to us both. There was the hope that came, of course, at the end when some of Charlotte’s offspring stay at the farm with Wilbur. But even as young as she was, my daughter knew that Wilbur would outlive these young spiders as well.

It was devastating.

* * * * *

Now in the fifth grade, she has studiously avoided the Harry Potter books because the causal reviews of friends have made them out to be scary and sad. They are both of those things in good measures, to be sure. But they’re also about magic and friendship and bravery and doing the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing. So, we’re about to embark on the journey to Hogwarts together, me reading aloud to her as I have since she was a baby.

I want to share these stories with her and to let her know that it’s okay to feel strong emotions in the face of troubling times. I want her to experience these stories because we live in a world that is increasingly scary and sad, but that still is filled with hope. Whether we’re facing the Battle of Hogwarts or the need to continually take to the streets to rally against the unfair policies of our government, friendship and bravery remain, as does facing up to the hard thing. And, of course, there will always be magic to discover each and every day.

So no matter how old she is, we still read and gasp and cry together as we discover that magic—and we share a bond through these stories that will never go away, regardless of how crazy the world around us becomes.

About Cynthia Platt

Cynthia Platt is the author of two picture books and a consulting editor with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Books for Young Readers.

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Comments

  1. Kerstin Cathcart says:

    So glad that I am not the only one who goes weepy when reading aloud! I love your explanation about why its ok to cry during books. I also sometimes tell my daughter that I cry because the world is so beautiful and fragile. Thanks for this post and the memories.

  2. So beautiful,moving, and true. What a wonderful pair you are!

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