Marriage/Parenting: Reading and Games

Meet Art and Allan

If you want to parent a vibrant and literate family, there are two people who should definitely be a part of the communal experience. Their names are Allan Turoff and “Uncle Arthur.”

Arthur Maxwell was the legendary Christian storyteller whose bedtime tales have entertained and gently blessed boys and girls for nearly the past century. He penned a total of 112 books, including the globally beloved Bible Story, a ten-volume set often found in doctors’ offices. His whimsical, instructive stories were moral lessons in obedience, love, caring for others, and living a life with God at the center.

His vignettes were told with a pleasant twinkle in the eye. I still remember one where two children wanted to give Toby, their reluctant and strong-willed pet dog, a bath. “Here, Toby! Here, boy! How does a nice bath sound?” And Uncle Arthur muses: “Toby wagged his tail again, but it was not quite so happy a wag as before. Indeed, a strange, determined gleam had come into his eye.” The slapdash tale ends with the soapy cur running into the house and hurtling itself into Dad’s lap. Of course, Dad, following the example of Jesus, felt compelled to forgive his naughty children.

Literary friend #2 is Allan Turoff, who is famous for conceiving the Parker Brothers game Boggle. And my point is simply this: if you wish to have a family where ideas sparkle and where the vocabulary is scintillating and the discussions are lively and fruitful, then play games where words are the weapons of choice. After supper one night a week, unplug the TV and spend 45 minutes seeing how many words you can find in those 16 maddening cubes. By the way, if you try real hard, you might even come up with “inconsequentially,” a 17-letter grand slam homer made possible by the fact that Q and U occupy the same cube face. (You get 11 points for it too.)

So read to your kids . . . and play lots of games where words and sentences and ideas are bouncing off the walls. Even if you’re a Republican, you have to grudgingly admire how a Bostonian dad named Kennedy would sit at the supper table with his nine children, and challenge them with vibrant arguments and chosen topic-of-the-day free-for-alls. The wordplay and the intellectual scrums and the debate point jousting were formative reasons why the Massachusetts brood produced a President, two senators, an ambassador, and the co-founder of the Special Olympics.

Compared to television, the benefits of books and conversation are a triple-word score every time.