[Kids Sometimes Like It When You Read Stuff That’s Not Kid Stuff]
This sounds like a terrible psychological experiment or some form of torture, but I recently read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” aloud to my 7, 5 and 3 year-old on a dark night in the middle of a thunderstorm, and they got a huge kick out of it.
I didn’t mean for this to happen, at all, but here is how it happened:
We were finishing up dinner on our screened porch when a huge summer storm took us by surprise. The wind blew in and the thunder crashed right over our heads. It was magical and terrifying, but the kids seemed to be okay because we were there, enjoying the heck out of it with them. It felt like Halloween feels when you’re young – it freaks you out, but you’re still not going to miss it for the world.
The power went off and we lit candles on the long wooden farm table where we were eating. When I went to the mantle to get the matches, I noticed (eerily) my copy of Poe’s greatest works sitting there. I had just bought this book because of another book that suggested his short story, “The Purloined Letter” was a metaphor for love (questionable), so I was curious to read that story. We had also just taken a family trip where we had seen a house that was dedicated to Poe’s life and writing, so he seemed to keep coming up. The book contains a collection of Poe’s poems as well, among which is “The Raven.” I thought, if any poem needs to be read in a slightly scary voice in a pretty frightening thunderstorm to some small children it would be this one.
You should have seen my kids faces. They had no idea what the poem was about, but Poe’s language (and my enthusiasm for it), and maybe just their pure fear, kept them rapt. And even though it was a fun experience for me to share it, I didn’t think anyone would remember it – maybe the storm and our exciting family time on the porch – but not the obscure poem.
A few days ago, my five year-old came rushing into the kitchen from the yard, and asked me breathlessly, “Mama, what was it that that bird kept saying over and over again?”
It took a minute for me to register what he was talking about, but then I remembered Poe.
“Nevermore?” I said.
“Yes, that’s it!” he said, and he flew back outside.
Then I heard him shouting, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as he ran into the woods, half-clad, chasing his brother with a homemade spear.
If you haven’t read or don’t remember “The Raven,” here it is for your next stormy night.
And if you’re wanting to dive more deeply into some Poe, here you go.
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