A Mother’s Voice: A Lifetime Of Reading With The Kids

By Jan Larson | May 6, 2021

  • Grey, Ellie and Dana Larson on the famous family snuggler. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

Grey, Ellie and Dana Larson on the famous family snuggler. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

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A mother’s voice can wrap us in warm blankets. It can guide gently or yank us back from the cliff. And sometimes it can take us to places we only dreamed were possible. Jan Larson and her three grown children — Dana, Grey and Ellie — remember a mother’s voice.


Our children are grown.

The magic is packed in cardboard boxes and tucked away in the loft waiting for the next generation to reveal its secrets.

The snuggler — an oversized chair that once cradled the Larson5 each night before sleep — sits empty in the corner of our living room.

But once upon a time …  those twilight hours held the promise of adventure, of magic, of silly laughter as my husband and I beckoned our pajama-clad pirates to join us in the joy of reading.  Here, cuddled together we giggled over Sandra Boyton’s “Moo, Baa, La La La!,” traveled to places unimagined with “Weslandia” and even dreamed of the letter that would whisk our young witch and wizards away to Hogwarts.

I confess to hogging the limelight. I couldn’t wait to bring whatever hid between the covers of that night’s book to life. My husband was gracious and I claimed top billing as Family Reader. And when the clamor for, “Just one more, Mommy,” rang out, I didn’t mind a bit.

The Larson children reading together while on a family trip. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

The Larson children reading together while on a family trip. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)


Mom (Jan Larson): Dana, what do you remember about being read to as a child?

Dana: You did voices, and now whenever I read to friends, or loved ones, I use voices and it makes all the difference…it’s funny because just I like I associate different characters in some of my favorite stories from childhood with you, some of the favorite characters in stories I’ve shared with friends or loved ones since then, they have mentioned to me are now associated with my voice and my mannerisms.

Mom: How did reading make you feel?

Grey: I just wanted to speak to what Dana said because Dana and I read together. I read sometimes but most often I like when Dana reads because he’s better at the voices.

Dana: (Laughing)

Mom: Ellie, what do you remember about the Larson5 reading together at night?

Ellie: I specifically remember we were living on our sailboat together and found a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book. By that time, two of us were teenagers already, but we still loved having you read to us. We made you read that book for hours on end because we were so desperate to hear more of the story and couldn’t get enough copies for all of us to have separately. And I remember you begging us to let you take a break so that you could get food and some water.

Dana: (Laughing)

Mom: Yes, I remember that very well. And, what did you do that night after I went to bed? Because I went to bed with the book and hid it under my pillow.

Ellie: Well, your point was to make it fair so that nobody could read ahead but I snuck it out from under your pillow and stayed up all night reading it.

Mom: And then you listened to it all over again. You never told us, not until years later.

Ellie: That’s true.

Dana: I distinctly remember being at the end of a chain of theft. Ellie would steal the book from Mom and read it and Grey would procure the book from Ellie and read it and I was at the end. And the whole time that they were reading it, I would be pouting at them disapprovingly, saying, “You’re not supposed to be reading ahead. This is supposed to be for Mom to be reading.

Grey: What he meant was, “We’re not supposed to be reading ahead of Dana.”

The Larson family pirates. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

The Larson family pirates. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

Mom: Do you think ahead to maybe having your own families and what you’ll do then?

Grey: Yes, bring them over so that you can read to them, too.

Dana: (Laughing)

Mom: (Laughing) I’ll be happy to. I will be happy to. And then it will be a grandmother’s voice and it will be a fun thing.

Ellie: You’re going to have to wait awhile for that. That’s not coming anytime soon.

Mom: That’s okay. That will be worth the wait. Thanks it is always a pleasure to get to read with you and I hope you have good memories of feeling warm and loved.

Dana: We always do.

Ellie: They’re all of the best memories.

Grey: You gave us all the good things that we have.

Mom: Oh, I love you kids.

Grey: Love you, mom.

Ellie/Dana: We love you, mom.

Mom: Aren’t you going to say your signature line?

Dana: Thanks for making us.

Mom: And they all lived happily, ever after. The End.

Grey, Ellie and Dana Larson, grown and well-read. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

Grey, Ellie and Dana Larson, grown and well-read. (Courtesy of Jan Larson)

Jan Larson

Jan Larson

Jan Larson is a professor emeritus and the former Department Chair of the Communication + Journalism Department at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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