Creating a Space with a Book
In happy anticipation of having a toddler at my house for a few days, I swung by the library to gather the most essential supplies. Wandering the stacks, I hunted for well-loved covers as well as new ones that piqued my curiosity.
My little visitor proved a most gratifying reading partner. I had forgotten the exact flavor of joy that is having a little voice chime in to complete a sentence, or giggle over the most silly of phrases. I reveled in pudgy fingers turning thick pages and every exclamation of “Again!”.
All of this snuggling in for stories filled up some dusty, unused corners of my heart. And, it got me thinking about just how powerful reading is as a communal act. A book is a potent tool for creating the small, holy room that I think is the basis for so much communion.
Books Create a Physical Space
On a lap, snuggled in close, sharing a book requires inhabiting a space together. These physical acts of gathering are easy to take for granted when your days are full of little ones clamoring for a spot close enough to see the pictures and turn the pages. But, having taken a step or two back from that stage, I can see even more clearly the strength of the space a book can create. I’ve found that reading a book aloud creates a forcefield so powerful it will draw even a recalcitrant teenager over for a moment or two to linger behind the couch, watching a page or two of story.
Books Create a Space in Time
Anyone who has ever put aside other pressing matters to read bedtime stories can attest to a book’s power to carve out a space in time. But, the stasis we can create with a book doesn’t have to stop when our youngest lets go of bedtime books read together. My parents, for years, have taken turns reading aloud to one another. Together they’ve wandered through Agatha Christies and followed Mrs. Pollifax on her adventures. When I consider shared reading as a practice in fabricating a space in time together, it fundamentally changes the emphasis I place on it.
Books Create a Space for Connection
I love a good audio book for a road trip. But, sometimes, instead of knitting or quilting passively while a story unfolds, I’ll read a book aloud. It’s a slow process. The best of these books invite a thousand conversations as we process and debate theories. This is how I was introduced to Tadauesz Kosciusko, whose story has enthralled me since its mention in Question of Honor. Many years ago Steve and I discussed implications and policies as we made our slow way through Freakenomics.
Road trips aren’t the only suitable venue for using a book to create space for connection. As my girls neared their first decade, we’d spend evenings curled up on their beds reading a chapter out of The Care and Keeping of You. It gave us a vehicle for exploring questions about puberty, as well as just generally checking in. Sharing a book is an easy invitation to share a bit of ourselves.