Easily 95% of the parents were Spanish speakers and knew little or no English. It was emphasized to them (in their own language) that the closeness and connection that the child feels with their parent as he or she hears the story was hugely important in developing a positive attitude and love for reading. In addition to the story, parents were encouraged to include personal messages as well as little songs or rhymes. It was really a wonderful thing to see and hear. A couple of the parents actually cried when they were done because they were just so happy to be able to do this for their child. This was one of those glimmers that makes the yuck parts of my job fade to the background.
When all the parents had gone home, I was told about one of the moms who, after reading a book said, "Oh, I have to make up a song. I always make up a little song for him." She thought and thought and then sweetly sang a little song that went something like this:
Go to sleep / Go to sleep / Or the big cat will come and get you.
A little shocking at first, maybe, but I totally got it.
When my mom used to come in to say goodnight to us she always had some little ditty or rhyme that she'd sing or say. It might be a really lovely old hymn, like "In the Garden," which I remember fondly. But more often than not, she'd pull something completely unconventional from her noggin. And for all of the goodnight trips she made for four kids, who could blame her for wanting to make things a little interesting? We loved it—though we each had differing tastes and tolerances.
My older brother, my mom informed me, would beg her to stop if she sang "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas" à la Mrs. Elva Miller, but it flat out cracked me up.
Oh, your red scarf matches your eyes,This was another odd song [for full effect "chaw" must be growled and tobacco pronounced "tabacca"] frequently performed:
You closed your cover before striking,
Father had the shipfitter blues,
Loving you has made me bananas.
Hooka tooka my soda crackerShe also used to recite a portion of Little Orphant Annie, too, that scared the bejeezus out of me, but I never asked her not to recite it:
Does your momma chaw tobacco?
If yer momma chaws tobacco sing
Hooka tooka my soda cracker
Wunst they wuz a little [girl] wouldn't say [her] prayers,--Beats the hell out of "The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round". No matter what the ditty was, I always felt safe and loved.
An' when [she] went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
[Her] Mammy heerd [her] holler, an' [her] Daddy heerd [her] bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, [she] wuzn't there at all!