Well, we finally did it–we finished Little House on the Prairie as a read-aloud after the girls have what I figure must at least be the equivalent of a high school education in all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Seriously, we often refer to Lulu as the World’s Youngest Living Expert on LIW.) It has been entertaining for me to read this book aloud to them after they have listened to the audiobook a mere 278 times. I have been corrected more than once on word pronounciations and mis-read words. I love that Lulu can put the whole series in chronological order. She bases this on place–she knows the Ingalls family started out in the Big Woods, from whence they moved to “Indian Territory.” From there it was to Plum Creek, then Silver Lake, and finally, to the place where they lived in town–“Little Town on the Prairie.” While she couldn’t place these locations on a map, they are very real in her imagination.
I began a running list of things that the girls have mentioned that I know they have learned through their immersion in these stories, and I have a few more addendum. Both of these came from the lips of five year old Lulu:
- “We could put in a puncheon floor.” (Said to me while I was pondering what type of flooring to put in our bathroom which we hope to remodel soon.) When I asked her what, exactly, is a puncheon floor, she replied, “A plank floor.”
- “What is a building boom?”
Lest this turn into (merely) a shameless mommy brag, I want to say that there really is a point to this Read Aloud Thursday post. I remember from my days in library science school that the Little House books have fallen under scrutiny because of their treatment (or, at times, lack of treatment) of Native Americans. I particularly remember tbat Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House was suggested as an alternative or addendum to Little House in the Big Woods to illustrate the fact that the Big Woods were not quite as unpopulated as Pa thought. After reading for myself Little House on the Prairie for the first time in probably twenty-five years (and not just eavesdropping on my girls’ listening to it on audiobook), I will admit that I was somewhat taken aback by the references to Native Americans and the sentiment of the Ingalls’ neighbors, the Scotts, that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Keep in mind that I taught public school long enough to be extremely sensitized to being “P.C.” Still, though, I plugged on reading the story because I figure that Pa’s more balanced view of their Native American neighbors comes across enough that surely my very perceptive little girls can figure out the truth of the situation. Historical context (even in historical fiction–maybe especially in historical fiction) is extremely important, and while my girls are too young to get that yet, I know that day is just around the corner. I also happen to think that the stories have enough merits to counterbalance what might be considered negativity due to this treatment of Native Americans. For example, the sheer self-sufficiency of the pioneers really struck me this time through the story. Witness:
Pa said he would make a door that very day. He wanted more than a quilt between them and the wolves, next time.
“I have no more nails, but I’ll not keep on waiting till I can make a trip to Independence,” he said. “A man doesn’t need nails to build a house or make a door.”
After breakfast he hitched up Pet and Patty, and taking his ax he went to get timber for the door. Laura helped wash the dishes and make the beds, but Mary minded the baby. Laura helped Pa make the door. Mary watched, but Laura handed him the tools.
With the saw he sawed logs the right length for a door. He sawed shorter lengths for cross-pieces. Then with the ax he split the logs into slabs, and smoothed them nicely. He laid the long slabs together on the ground and placed the shorter slabs across them. Then with the auger he bored holes through the cross-pieces into the long slabs. Into every hole he drove a wooden peg that fitted tightly.
That made the door. It was a good oak door, solid and strong. (“Two Stout Doors,” Little House on the Prairie)
All that after traveling from Wisconsin to Kansas in a covered wagon, finding a place to live, and building the house himself. We could learn a lot from his spirit.
What have you been reading aloud with your family this week? Share in the comments by simply commenting or by leaving a link to your own Read Aloud Thursday post!