Guest: Becky Sarah, Grandparenting Expert

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As friends of mine become first-time grandmothers, I like to give them a gift to mark this cherished milestone in their lives. I’ve given darling frames to two women and a small book with a humorous, light-hearted look at grandparenting to a third. But now I’ve come across another great choice: Grandmothering:Real Life in Real Families by Becky Sarah, a manual that combines common sense advice and interviews with more than 80 women.

For her newly-released book, Becky drew upon her professional experience as a former teacher, midwife, childbirth and parent educator, as well as Public Health Director for the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts. I am happy to welcome Becky Sarah as today’s guest writer.

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There are so many wonderful ways to bring children’s books into your grandchildren’s lives. When I was interviewing grandmothers, as research for my new book “Grandmothering: Real Life in Real Families,” I heard a lot of great ideas.

In one family, there is a birthday tradition of lunch at a granddaughter’s favorite restaurant and a bookstore trip where she gets to choose any three books she wants.

In another family I interviewed, the grandchild’s family has to make a long plane trip when they visit. On the last day of each visit, the grandmother takes her grandson to their local independent bookstore and he can choose something to read on the trip home. This is an enjoyable way to end the visit, a nice moment for both of them. The child’s parents appreciate it, too, because he has something new to occupy himself with on the plane.

Many grandparents have saved boxes of treasured books, some of them now classics like Charlotte’s Web, Dr. Dolittle, and Misty of Chincoteague. These can make nice bedtime stories, perhaps heard only at grandma’s house. Or, you might give these books to the grandchildren, one at a time, as the children get old enough and you see which ones are special to each child.

There can be some unpleasant surprises, though. One grandmother I talked with was startled and saddened to find that some of the books she loved had ideas or behavior that by today’s standards are inappropriate. In Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary, the father smokes cigarettes and it’s portrayed as perfectly normal. This grandmother left out those sentences as she read the book in the backseat on a car trip to two granddaughters, and she isn’t going to give them that book to read to themselves because she doesn’t want to give them the idea that smoking is grownup, or fun. They can still enjoy the antics and adventures of Ramona, Beezus, Henry, and Henry’s dog Ribsy.

But most of the books you and your own children loved will be just right for grandchildren. The parents will probably find it a delightful to see their child enjoying their own favorites … especially if you are doing the reading, and the parents are getting a few free moments to themselves. If you don’t have a collection of classic children’s books, a librarian can help you find the ones you remember and many new treasures too.

Some literature that seems too grownup for your grandchild can actually be wonderful for them. One grandmother I interviewed reads poetry to the children, including poems they don’t completely understand. Of course, she doesn’t include anything scary, or disturbing. But when she read Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the children listened intently, then asked, “Why did they stop in the snow?”  There was no answer, just something for them all to talk over and to think about, while contemplating the scene that Frost describes so vividly. Goofy old-fashioned humorous poems can be a lot of fun, too, like Ogden Nash’s limericks, or “The Purple Cow.”

Another grandmother told me that she loved reading Winnie the Pooh to grandchildren and she noticed two levels of humor in the book. The children, who are all between five and nine years old, giggled and asked for these stories over and over, but the grandmother laughed at different points in the narrative, at ironies or references that the author intended for the adult reader.

You give your grandchildren a wonderful gift when you teach them to enjoy books, a gift they will have all their lives.

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10 thoughts on “Guest: Becky Sarah, Grandparenting Expert

  1. Joyce November 11, 2013 at 5:13 pm Reply

    This is so beautiful! There is no better joy than when one of my grandchildren grabs a stack of books, climbs up onto my lap, plunks them down, and says, “Grandma, read these to me. All of them!”
    I loved reading your ideas for bringing even more enjoyment into life with books. I saved all the ones I bought for my daughters as a family (they each received back their own specific, book plated ones when their first child was born). The family books are the ones that get read just at grandma’s house.

    • belindambrock November 12, 2013 at 9:16 am Reply

      Thanks, Joyce, for stopping by my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed Becky’s suggestions. Sounds as if you’re on your way to creating cherished family traditions with your grands!

  2. Grandma Kc November 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm Reply

    I think sometimes it is good to expose our children to things that we have learned NOT to do anymore. It opens up some great opportunities for discussion. We have had conversations with our granddaughter about how it used to be cool to smoke – how all of us had smoked in our past but had learned it isn’t in our health’s best interest to do it and had quit. Same with things like Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, The Help, etc. I do understand and maybe age is a factor, too. Amara is 9 now and that makes a difference. The important things is — they read!!! Good post, very thought provoking.

    • belindambrock November 12, 2013 at 9:25 am Reply

      Happy you liked the post, Kc. I think you make an excellent point. Reading about these things is a good springboard for the “now we know better, so we do better” type of discussions.

  3. Sandra Sallin November 12, 2013 at 10:06 am Reply

    Oh, I love this post. I dore books and reading.Love taking my grandkids to the librry and bookstore. I like the idea of buying books for readig on the airplane home. So far their book cases are all filled up.

    • belindambrock November 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm Reply

      Thanks for visiting, Sandra, and glad you enjoyed the post—we’re all for kids and books here!

  4. Carol Covin November 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm Reply

    It’s fascinating to find books that are treasured childhood favorites that, read with an adult’s eye, are no longer appropriate for our grandchildren. Thanks for this insight.

    • belindambrock November 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm Reply

      Yes, Becky brought up a good point. Actually, I’d like to go back and revisit some of the books that I was so enamoured with as a child and see if I still feel the magic. 🙂

  5. katsbynp November 17, 2013 at 11:45 am Reply

    My granddaughter has had books since she was born. She is 3 but still likes to pull her books off the shelf and cuddle up to read. I hope she continues to love reading. Thanks for sharing

    • belindambrock November 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm Reply

      Children—like your granddaughter— who are read to, surrounded by appealing books and who have comforting, good associations with books will continue to seek out the opportunity to read. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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