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Slow Reading

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Slow Reading with Children

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Do you remember the last time you read a book slowly? I mean very, very slooooowly? Slowly to the point, it felt as if you became one with the book.  And time stopped.  The pandemic slowed life down for us and our pace of devouring books. 

As we unwind to read ‘Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey From Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert’, I announced we will be slow reading today. 

The excitement of knowing bedtime will be a lot later added onto it. My 5-year-old and I gazed at the book cover.

We talked about the basket, the yarn, colors of the yarn, and she made a connection to the hats a neighbor knitted for us from yarn. She imagine what a cat what do if it were near the yern. We noticed the stitches around the book title, she asked why didn’t they stitch the words as well. 

We drew our attention to the lines, shades of pink, the girl in the center of the page, her dreamy eyes, she smile perhaps she was in a state of enjoyment, the cool patch stitched onto her dress, the spindle, prints on the patches, her height, nothing went undetected.

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We turned to the front endpaper. It showed a picture of a quilt. Our fingers ran over the pictorial quilt and stared deeper into the patchwork illustrations. We made up stories for each square.

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The moment we reached the page with the baby sleeping on the floor, she remembered seeing a picture of her sleeping on a farm just like the child in the image. 

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On the next page, she recognized the spinning wheel and made a connection to the spinning wheel in her favorite books (l love my hair). We admired their beautiful skirts, aprons, head ties, and expressions. This time the baskets had writing on them, one basket could have been made out of a newspaper from a slave advertisement listing. We wondered why they were barefoot, 

As we read slowly, softly, quietly, the little sister sat with us holding a book. She was starting to get impatient as she waited to have her story read afterward. Still, she engaged in our observation. We arrived on a festive page. As I read to her, she imagined feasting on peach pie, ginger cake, collard greens, and barbecue.

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“They are singing and dancing,” she exclaimed,her sister redirected her attention back to us. “I don’t want to sing and dance,” the little sister said. My oldest pointed to the page “No! They are singing and dancing.”

“I don’t even hear the music,” said the little sister. My oldest replied“you can’t hear it because they’re making music in the book”

“Ooohhh!” she complained  “I didn’t want to hear the music anyway.”she said with disappointment. And they continued to chat away about the page. In that moment, they became one with books. They decided on a song that they would sing.Their fascination and reading of the moods and interest in this joyous moment in the story set  teh stage for almost 2 hours of reading. 

They had forgotten they were reading a book. The story felt real to them.  And this made me appreciate reading slowly even more.

We tried to imagine how the freshly picked cotton felt on our fingertips. We sniffed to imagine the odor associated with the soft, fluffy boll. Our eyes imagine a purer white than shown in the illustration.

pondering…reflecting…connecting…meditating…Spending time with Harriet and her family, her world became our world.

Slowly, we continued to read and drew connections from what laid on the pages with our lives.

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“Her cloth stories lifted her to another world, where suns and moons, animals and angels, dance together across a fabric sky.”@barbaraheckert

 Just like Harriet, we too entered a fictive dream, this time we entered into Barbara Herkert’s words, we were inside the book, connected to Harriet, life during her times.

The author’s profound truthful message reaches high and wide into our hearts, touches us so deeply.

We got to explore the stories in her story. How slaves at that time were not allowed to read and write. How patchwork was a way to preserve stories just like books. The folklore about how quilts were used to communicate messages about the Underground Railroad.

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The back matter had a real photograph of Harriet and there was even more to discuss.

Picture books invited to meet people we’d never get the chance to know

They take us to places not available to us today.

They show us events we might have missed.

They transport us into worlds we would not belong in.

The girls and I gave ourselves the time to explore all the details we could in the book.

Offering us a deeper understanding which was far more important than just reading.

Most of the time parents read a book all the way through sometimes skipping pages instead of stopping here and there to ask, what’s going on in this picture? Do you want to point something out? Children love reading pictures. Reading slowly is something adults have to practice to get comfortable with. It’s not realistic to slow read every night. 

But the nights we read slowly, I value the most.  The realization of losing track of time. Being present completely is a gift. Someday when they are older and on their own, I want to remember savoring these moments.  

All this magic can happen when you slow down, go beneath, and connect with the story.