Friday, May 29, 2015
Why Three Isn't Necessarily A Great Age To Read To Your Own Child
Before you read this post it's important that I mention that the children in question actually did become early readers. I attribute that to the fact that I started giving them books to look at when each was a young infant. Also, they lived in a home where both parents and any siblings were all very much readers. It was a part of our family life, even though we each had our own reading materials. Also, I'd put together a very nice "children's library" in our home.
Having said all that, the truth is I was never very successful reading to my own three-year-olds. Here's how most of my efforts tended to go (and I'm guessing this is how things go for a whole lot of three-year-olds who think they want their mother to read to them when, when it comes down to it, they really don't.)
My three-year-old would sit close to me on the couch and happily wait for the story to begin. Oh... such a lovely moment.
I'd get to the first page. Let's say the book was (oh, I don't know....) "Sam's Birthday Surprise". There is Sam on the first page, having his breakfast on the big day (his birthday). My child might immediately ask something like, "What's on his shoe?" I'd reply, "There's nothing on his shoe. That's just a shadow." My child might then say something like, "Why isn't there a shadow on the other shoe?" I might say something like, "There just isn't one on that shoe."
Then my child might say something like, "I think he's got dirt on his shoe." Maybe I'd say, "No, that's just a shadow that person who drew the pictures added.". Then my child might be satisfied and say, "Oh". The two of us would anticipate moving on with the story. First, however, the question about why Sam's puppy looks sad might be asked. I'd, of course, reply, "He's not sad." My child: "But he looks sad." Me: "He isn't, though. He just looks sad, maybe. He's really happy because he knows it's Sam's birthday." My child: "Oh". Finally, I'd get to turn from the first page to the second page; at which time my child's arm would reach over mine and point to some new and interesting thing on the page. And, of course, there might be a question or two about whatever it was.
Then, just as I was about to turn to page two; and from out-of-the-apparent-blue, my child might ask something like, "Where's Sam's Daddy?" Me: "Maybe he's at work." My child: "Oh".
Page Three: A friendly-faced neighbor-lady shows up at Sam's door. The story tells us that she is the friendly Mrs. So-and-So, who has come to bring some treats for the party. Now, here on only the third page, the tray of treats that Mrs. So-and-So is carrying is just far too fascinating to my child; who has now changed his position from sitting alongside me to be almost half-way leaning up over my arm to the point where I'm now looking at a good part of the back of my little one's head (and, of course, I'm leaning my own head over in order to see the rest of what Page Three has to say). I read aloud that Mrs. So-and-So has made birthday cookies and decorated each one of them for the twelve children who will be coming to party. Interest in each of the individual cake's decorations gets the best of my child, who is no longer anything close to seated next to me and whose whole head and one arm are completely blocking my view. In other words, my child is pretty much in my lap, but not entirely.
Now, the whole story is so fascinating to my child that he can't control the urge to turn to Page Four himself. This is when might child now gets himself higher so that he can turn the page.; At this point I realize it's time to ask my child, "Would you like to read this book yourself?" My child enthusiastically replies, "Yes". I give him the book, which he happily takes as he jumps down from the couch and settles on the floor with the book.
Some version of this scenario would take place with each of my three-year-olds and every book I ever tried to read. The moral to this story is that you'd better give you infant infant-safe books that he can look at himself, and you'd better read to him when he's two - because once he's three (if you played your cards right, or should I say "played your children's books right") your child won't be likely to sit still and be quiet while he's read to unless he's in a group of other three-year-olds at, say, a little pal's birthday party or preschool (or unless some visiting relative is novelty enough that the child won't forget the reader is not a chair and has eyes that need to see the book in order to read it.
I should probably make it clear that my three-year-olds couldn't really read those books. It was just that (particularly, I suppose, since they had more than enough of those special, one-to-one, times with me) they saw that within the pages of those books were interesting pictures that invited the very thing that all good stories involve, which is the invitation to enjoy using one's imagination and the experience of sitting quietly by oneself and in the company of only one book. After all, if children learn those things that can make the difference between just knowing what the letters and words say and truly enjoying reading.
(Oh, and by the way... no, they didn't have ADHD. They were just enthusiastic, mainly because they were three.)
Posted by ME Whelan at 9:13 PM