Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest I think my efforts are in vain...

Today as Gabriel, Peter and I were riding in the car to go pick up our veggies and milk from the co-op we participate in, we were listening to the classical music station on the radio. A Mozart piece came on– don’t ask me the name, because I don’t really focus on these things(!)– and I waited for a reaction from Gabriel. Suddenly from the back of the car I hear:

“Mommy! Is that your phone? Is your phone ringing?”
“No, Gabriel. That’s the radio.”
“But, no, Mommy, I hear your phone!”
“Actually, what you hear is the melody my phone plays when it rings. Mozart wrote that melody a long time ago, and now someone is playing it on the piano.”
“Is it Daddy?” [Daddy is our home’s resident pianist and musician extraordinaire...]
“No, it is a different man, or maybe even a woman.”
“Hey...Mozart! That’s like the book we read! Is this the melody he found? Is this Mozart’s melody?!”

At least ten months ago we read a book from the library called Mozart Finds A Melody. Gabriel would have been not quite 2 ½ years old. It was a rather whimsical rhyming picture book about Mozart and his pet bird, and his attempt to find a melody for his next composition. I had just grabbed it off the shelf, seeing that it looked kind of like a “living book” and hoping he might connect it to Daddy’s piano playing. It seemed way over his head at the time, but we read it a couple times and then returned it, not to mention it again. But it was there, swirling around in Gabriel’s little thoughts, and it!

Episodes like this make me increasingly more committed to filling my children’s hearts and minds with excellence and beauty, and more averse to fluffy cartoon characters or books featuring characters with bad attitudes, slapstick violence, or potty humor. You’d think the library would know better than to stock such stuff, but I find that 75% of the time when Gabriel randomly finds a book off the shelves, it features the above-mentioned attributes. Books can be fun without all that... Cynthia Rylant’s books are great examples. (I’ll talk more about them in an upcoming post.)

Finding living books that feed Gabriel’s mind and heart takes extra effort–in our case, I check trusted booklists, go to the library website, request the books online, and wait until they come in. Then our trip to the library is much simpler... I have a huge stack of genuinely good books waiting for me (although I always flip through them now before reading them) and we can make a short visit to the children’s section for one or two spontaneous finds. Much easier than browsing shelves with two little ones in tow!

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