Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Case of the Unadorned Coats, Shoes, and Pajamas

One of the most magical moments of parenthood for me is watching my children read. First, it was fun to watch them grab for and gum the books. My youngest, in particular, loved to devour good literature, in the literal sense, and we have tattered books with huge bite marks out of them to prove it. Then it was great when the boys sat on our laps and engaged with stories, pointing, grunting, then making comments, asking questions, begging us to reread them, and sometimes even acting out the plots. S always did a convincing Olivia. It has been equally wonderful to watch them develop particular attachments for certain books. One obsession, the Magic School Bus series (both the original and the less engaging ones with stories taken from the television shows) , lasted well over a year and we now have a separate bin just for MSB books that would rival any library collection.

My oldest two were early readers. This is something a bit difficult to talk or write about because it invariably sounds like I am bragging. However, since I honestly take no credit for their reading and see plenty of other things the boys struggle with (that may come easily to others), I view it more as a statement of fact than oh-what-a-great-mom-I-am and oh-aren't-my-children-brilliant sort of thing. Yes, the boys have grown up in a print-rich environment, a fancy, educator's way of saying that P and I have a huge collection of books, newspapers, and magazines, read constantly ourselves, and have a hard time leaving a bookstore without a bulging bag. Yet most everyone we know has exposed her/his kids to books early on, read to them on a regular basis, and have their own book collections. We did not actively teach the guys to read. They learned it on their own with the help, I strongly suspect, of some good kids' television. We weren't secretly pushing phonics or quizzing them with sight word cards like some scene from a parody of the over-the-top parents interested in their two-year-olds prepping for their Harvard application sixteen years early. It actually took someone who doesn't live in our house to clue us in that the boys were full-out reading, not reciting well-known stories from memory.

There are a few downsides to have early readers, I have to say. I get asked questions about topics I haven't been prepared for, like one inquisitive three-year-old, viewing an advertisement in a newspaper in a bakery--a bakery!, and asking, "What are Hooters, mommy?" ("They're not a nice way of talking about women's breasts," I replied truthfully, because we all know they aren't referencing owls.) I hold my breath just a bit while driving the interstate, passing billboards for 'gentleman's' clubs and erotic boutiques, now that we live in a state that allows billboard advertising, waiting for the inquiries from the back seats. I need to be constantly aware what is on my computer screen when the boys are around and one guy, in particular, loves reading over my shoulder as I blog ("Are you writing another story about us now?"). Finally, getting so engrossed with reading, has caused potty accidents and grand delays, worse than any of the airlines' these days, in putting on shoes, coats, pajamas, etc.

A few weeks ago, the boys spent the night with one of my sisters. On the way home from her house, the twins pulled out the booty they acquired from the remains of older cousins: Encyclopedia Brown books. They were so excited to tell me about this boy detective and I became excited as well because 1. I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a girl and 2. it would not have occured to me that they could read those books now. It is so fun and fascinating to hear them talk about the characters I spent so much time with as a kid: Encyclopedia himself, Sally, Bugs. Since their initial introduction, we have made two forays to the library, tracking down more EC books in the S- shelves (Sobol), and thankfully, there are many to be found. And now at night, after p.j.'s are on, teeth are brushed, and the boys have climbed into bed, C and S request that the lights remain on, just for "three more cases, Mom, just three more". As a flashlight-under-the-blanket-reader kid myself, I don't have the ability to say no to that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know which I love more -- that your kids love reading or that they are reading EB.