Making Bedtime Stories Your Own by a Brooklyn Dad
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It was cozy to cuddle up with the kids in our reading chair or next to their bunk bed and spend nights reading chapters from "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart. I’d perform each character in a “normal”, “appropriate” voice. Dramatic scenes were delivered naturalistically. The "Just So Stories" Rudyard Kipling wrote were once favorites of my boys. They loved my silly animal voices with put on little accents and would beg for more until they drifted off to asleep. My wife is Swedish and the whole family has always loved books from Sweden including Barbro Lindgren and Olof Landstrom’s books about Benny the pig and all of the many Inger and Lasse Sandberg’s books, particularly "The Little Spook" series. For the books that only exist in Swedish, I wing a translation guided by pictures and a few recognizable words.
For longer works like Astrid Lindgren’s "Pippi Longstocking" we’d do one chapter a night like most families before I began experimenting with reading only the verbs. Our small book lamp, the “cozy light”, would create a little pool of illumination in the darkened bedroom where we shared story time. It was nice but now that I’ve installed a full-featured theatrical lighting rig and hired professional sound designers, my performances of Bob Shea’s "Cheetah Can’t Lose" really comes to life.
The avant-garde approach to reading children’s stories isn’t for everyone. I understand that. For some people, Midwesterners probably, pleasurable time with your children is enough but I’m from Brooklyn. My wife can say what she will but when I come into the boy’s bedroom for story time, they never complain. Maybe that’s because they are finally coming to see my true genius. Maybe it’s because they are pretending to be asleep already.
Tim Harrington is a writer, performer, and designer. "This Little Piggy" is his first picture book. Harrington is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the front man of indie rock band Les Savy Fav. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.