There is nothing like a parent-teacher conference to make you stop and think about your child and how you have raised her. Our conferences this fall went extremely well, with no surprises. However, I can’t help but think about the things we do with our child and the effect they may have on her, particularly when it comes to success in the classroom environment.
One goal of educators is to produce young readers. My husband and I agree whole heartedly that a young reader is a good thing. So, we have diligently followed the advice of the experts and read to our daughter at least 20 minutes every day. She has a library card and bookshelves full of books in her bedroom and in her play area in the basement. She sees us read the newspaper; she sees us read books. She sees us read for work and for fun.
In following expert recommendations so thoroughly however, we may have ill-prepared our child for school. The concept of sitting quietly with a book is one that is completely foreign to our daughter.
You see, we don’t read books quietly at our house. For us, story time involves the three of us piling onto our daughter’s bed and committing an act of DRAMA.
When we read her favorite book, Tickle the Duck by Ethan Long, we actually do tickle the duck (whoever happens to be reading the book). When the duck gets mad and angry, we get mad and angry. When the duck gets thoughtful, we get thoughtful, and when the duck laughs so hard that he snorts, we laugh so hard that we snort.
When we read her second favorite book, Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss, which she can probably recite from memory, we do, literally, hop on Pop. (According to Pop, this was much easier to take when she was two.) To keep the text bearable for Mom and Dad, we started a tradition of reading it “wrong” substituting different rhyming words at various points, and encouraging our daughter to correct us—something from which she derives tremendous pleasure. Now, she gets upset if we read it right. And, there is only one way to read: “Fish in a tree, how can that be?!”
When we read Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar, we get a stuffed animal for every page—fish, doggy, kitty, etc. We act out each dialog: “Who me?” “Yes you.” “Couldn’t be.” “Then who?”
If we are reading a spooky Halloween story and the text describes a mysterious tapping, well there will be a mysterious tapping. If a ghost is going, “whooooo”, well, then there is a ghost going “whooo”. If a character says, “Shhh! Be quiet. What’s that noise?” We all stop and listen for the noise.
If we are reading a book about Paul Revere as a young boy yelling a customer’s order for extra-large underwear in the general store because bells are ringing in his ears, well—we are all yelling orders for extra-large underwear. How else would you read such a passage? (John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith)
So, you see, telling my daughter to “sit quietly and read a book” simply makes no sense to her, because she has never done that. Sitting quietly and reading is completely foreign to her experience of books. Nobody sits quietly and reads. Not in our house.
I think we may have warped her for life.
If she decides to read the Harry Potter books, I’m not sure how we will handle Quidditch, but it could get interesting. Anybody know where I can pick up some flying broomsticks?
© 2012 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.