Something happened this summer at our house. Suddenly bedtime stories, which have always been a time for Mom and Dad to pile onto our daughter’s bed and read to her, are now a time for us to pile onto our daughter’s bed and listen to her read to us.
A few nights ago, she grabbed her copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. When I asked her who was going to read the book, she said “I am”, and she a launched into a delightful reading of the story, complete with a different voice for every animal. She read the cat as a smooth, softly spoken sophisticate, and the sheep was as down to earth and throaty as it could have possibly been. I could not have read that story any better myself.
Suddenly our daughter is transforming from a reader who struggles with every word—carefully sounding out letters and repeating words—into a reader who matches pictures to words, pays attention to punctuation and reads with emotion and meaning. She still stumbles, yes, but much of her reading indicates that she is not only recognizing individual words and sounds but also she comprehends the meaning of words strung together to form sentences. There is great power in reaching this stage of reading, because this is when reading becomes fun and imaginative—when the mind’s eye can start painting the picture the writer is telling.
It’s the stage when Stephen King’s Carrie or Bram Stoker’s Dracula keeps you awake at night. It’s the stage when you become the awkward eleven-year-old, hearing the words “You’re a wizard, Harry” for the first time. It’s the stage when the city on the other side of the fog-covered island is real, if you could only walk far enough to get there. When you can read well enough to become part of the story, reading becomes a wonderful way to develop empathy for people who are not like you and to learn about places and cultures that are unfamiliar.
Witnessing this transformation in our daughter is an amazing thing, and I consider myself privileged to be a part of a child becoming “reader”. I have never seen it happen before, and it is so much fun to watch. She will still struggle for a little while as her reading vocabulary catches up to her spoken one. She will still rely on pictures to help her grasp abstract thoughts and concepts, but she is gaining fluency, and being able to read fluently and confidently will open up worlds of opportunity for her and empower her to do things she never even dreamed possible.
We still read bedtime stories to our daughter; it’s a treasured tradition and one that I don’t want to see end any time soon. But, at the same time, I’m delighted to share in her interpretation of the story as well, because, wow, I had no idea that purple cat was so sassy!
© 2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.