From: Rob Reynolds
Location: Baton Rouge, La
I know that you must receive correspondence from parents who have grown up with your works and are passing them along to their children. I am from the same ilk.
I have two children age 7 and 11, I introduced them to your works via the Anvil books a number of years ago and we haven't looked back since. The passage below relates how our 'evolution of story time' took place and I simply wanted to let you know that your works have played a large role in that development.
The effects of your works in story time have gone well beyond the vocabulary improvements that are probably the most easily measurable of the effects. I can see in their thought processes a wider spectrum of ideas and a increasing depth of context, particularly for appreciation of deep and complex characters.
One notable observation that the eldest son made was what he calls the 'glowing descriptions' that you make in the introductory paragraph in many of your chapters.
Thanks for your works and we wish you the best!
My son Gavin just walked up to me with holding our lovable but over-sized cat draped across his arms. He says, "Daddy, can you believe, we need to buy a Shrink-Ray to shrink this baby cat."
Story Time: My entire life culminates into about a 1 hour period that occurs usually between 730 and 830pm. This is colloquially known as Story Time. Story time has had many changes and evolutions over time as the boys have grown.
Original story time consisted of kids books like Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Brown Bear, The Giving Tree and the like. The boys have always enjoyed this time together and story time is truly one of the only times that the boys seemed to really give their focused attention.
Story time changed at some point to an interactive sort of role-playing. I would pick a theme and begin the story and the boys would be given choices throughout the story that would guide how the story unfolded. An example is the 'western' theme or the 'Ditch'.
You are in a dark room with no light at all. You stumble through the darkness feeling along the wall until you find a switch mounted to the wall. It is a wooden lever protruding from the wall and it is in the up position. Do you want to pull the switch down or keep feeling along the wall?
Child: I want to pull the switch but I want to pull it slowly.
As you slowly pull the lever downward you see that a shaft of light appears about 6' away. The wall itself appears to be sliding down and light is shining in from the top of door. Do you want to pull the lever down all the way or do you want to try and peek out of the top of the door?
Child: How high up is it?
The crack at the top of the door is about 4' high.
Child: Ok, I climb up on Gavin's shoulders and peek out over the top.
When you look out through the crack you see a road that snakes off to the left and right. You also see a small shack directly across the road from the door. You see a lit candle burning in through a dirty window.
Child: I pull the lever down enough so that we can climb out of the door.
The door slides down and you stop it when it gets about 3' from the ground and climb over. When you get out you look back and realize that the door that you just climbed over was a actually a large rock concealing the entrance to the passage. The rock appears to be leaning against a cliff face of a large mountain. A small trail leads off to your left and winds it way into the mountain. Would you like to investigate the shack with the candle, follow the trail in the mountain or take the road left or right?
You get the picture. We did this for a number of years and the boys developed certain strategies, particularly being careful with their responses such as pulling the lever 'slowly' in the example above. Daddy was quick to dish out nasty consequences for impulsive or thoughtless behavior in the stories.
The interactive stories evolved too as things went on, the boys began telling more and more of the story. This usually involved addition of strange and powerful weapons to their ever building arsenal of mechanica and magica. Lava Swords and Tidal wave shields, guns that would shoot holes through inescapable dilemmas. However, daddy was there to ensure that the Dues ex mahchina was not the permanent resolution for conflict.
Eventually, the boys would take turns telling entire stories. We focused on a start, some exploration, discovery of a problem, deciding on how to face the problem, acting and working out the consequences.
Our current incarnation of story time consist of fast but passionate readings of 'chapter books', these have included Harry Potter, Goose Bumps, Deltora and currently Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.
Story time however is closely regulated by a few factors; if daddy is traveling, what time daddy gets home, how late Hunter finishes his homework, what time both boys finish supper and bath time, as well as the daily behavior grades from school and mom.
Bedtime is 8:30pm, firm. However, we have stretched that out more than once to mom's irritation, but only for really good story parts that must be resolved before sleep!
A few odd bits about story time. The boys like me to read nearly as fast as possible. I was once employed as reader for a court reporting school where we read metered material to court reporting students to transcribe. One of the tasks involved reading interrogatories at a a rate of 240-280 wpm, this is very fast but still intelligible. I would say this is close to the rate that we conduct story time.
The voices: When I read to the boys I change my voice to fit either the character or the situation. This is not your typical reading in character, we also do it to break some of the monotony. For example Hunter loves when I read using the 'Terminator' voice for parts of the story where the bad guy is talking or there is a great deal of suspense or action. I use the 'shogun' voice as well for these type of parts as well at times.
What does that word mean? I've read that Scientology(TM) teaches that you should always look every word that you read that you don't completely understand. I'm not a sci-to but we tend to follow the same policy, however we don't stop reading to explain. I will define the word or use a string of 2 or 3 synonyms right in the flow of the read.
The barrister looked up with a pained look on his face while grasping his hand after he poured the scalding (hot) water onto it from the espresso (coffee) machine. The insistent customer (a person who keeps asking for something over and over) seemed to pay no attention to the mans plight and continued to tap the bell on the counter repeatedly (over and over) and exclaim "Service here!"
Every other weekend my oldest son goes to his bio-dads as a result we hold off on whatever main book we are reading and Gavin and I will read other books. Once Hunter read ahead in one of the chapter books and it caused a lot of problems as Gavin and I had to catch up. However, Hunter was still excited to hear the story read again. At first he insisted that I had read that chapter to him, he said "Daddy I have a great memory, and I know you read it us. You remember it has the "Sub-tal" knife. His mispronunciation of the word 'Subtle' clued us that he had only read the word rather than having heard me read the correct pronunciation. He confessed to reading ahead after I presented this evidence to him.
I don't have a lot of scientific method in place to show me that Story Time benefits the boys either emotionally or cognitively. However, someone would be hard pressed to proved to me that it doesn't. Hunter has written some very imaginative stories for class and both have an above average vocabulary that I credit much to story time.
For me the countless hours that have been put into story time have been some of the best spent hours of my life. There is no 'shortcut' or 'fake' way to replace story time, because that type of one-on-one interaction is both immersive and time intensive. I believe that hunting/camping and sports are similar type of interactions that a parent can engage in, however story time is more focused on the child's 'minds eye'. Whereas hunting/camping is centered around 'nature awareness' and sports centers around body mechanics and situational awareness.
I hope that what I do now with the boys will help them and that it will carry over to their children. My kids are my life, getting home in time for story time is not always possible but no matter where I'm at between 730 and 830p, it's still story time to us.
From: Greg Bear
Thanks, Bobby John! This is a fascinating idea--adventure gaming without the computer. Parts of your family narrative here would fit perfectly into a Heinlein story! Our own night-reading patterns were this: Astrid read our kids Narnia and Moomintroll and such, and I read them Moby Dick and Herodotus--and quite a few sf books.
From: Roald Laurenson
Just to say, this is quite charming about the family story times, from each of you.