Ada thought that I should wait to post about them until we'd finished the last book in the trilogy, THE AMBER SPYGLASS. But whether Ada likes the third book as much as the first two is slightly irrelevant to the purpose of this post. Which is to extol the virtues of reading to the kid(s) in your life.
I'm moderately aware of what literacy experts have to say about the matter: that it increases vocabulary and stimulates language development; that it creates positive associations with reading generally; that it introduces kids to books they might not select on their own, and helps them learn to sit still and listen. All of these are terrific reasons. But they're not any of them the reasons I started reading to Ada in the first place, and they're not the reasons I continue to read to her now.
I guess my reasons are selfish. Reading some of my own favorite books to Ada lets me visit them again, and also to appreciate them from her perspective, since she almost always has some observation that I'd missed, or that never occurred to me. Reading out loud also helps me understand, as a writer, what works and what doesn't in written language—I can hear when passages are too verbose, or when they are paced just right (and in Philip Pullman's books, there are a lot of passages like the latter). And I can figure out, from Ada's reaction, what is fun and engaging and what is completely lame and boring.
Ada accuses me of not liking to play and I'm ashamed to admit it, but she's right; I'm good for putting together a puzzle, or arranging dollhouse furniture, or hauling down the sewing machine and practicing making seams. But the imaginative play as well as the board games—well, my husband really has to pick up the slack there. When I read to Ada, though, she accuses me of nothing. Pretty much for as long as I'm able to read—and sometimes we have marathon sessions going on two hours—she's able to sit and listen. I love watching as, when we come to a particularly tense scene in which Mrs. Coulter and her monkey daemon are up to their nasty old tricks again, she shoots up her head to look at me with wide eyes and to groan, "Oh, no!"
A lot less often than when she was younger, Ada will sit curled up with me on the couch as I read—as opposed to sitting and drawing at the coffee table, or glueing beads to something, or rolling around with the dog. When she does, I notice that she's reading along and I think how great that is, that she's getting to see how some big words are pronounced and building her vocabulary, and all those important educational things. But mostly, I'm just enjoying the feel of her soft, warm head tucked under my chin.