Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reading to a Child

I had forgotten how different reading to a child is from reading alone.  When I read alone, at night, in bed--my usual place to read--the words play out in my head; I seem to be hearing the author.  The bedside lamp is on, the rest of the room dark; I read until my eyes begin to close and the book slips from my hands.  I fumble for the light and manage to switch it off.  Then dark, sleep.

Yesterday I read to my four-year old grandson in his old bright sunny bedroom, where he used to sleep in a crib.  He chose Richard Scarry's "What People Do All day?" and we settled into the rocking chair.  Sometimes he would sit next to me, sometimes on the footstool.  The chair rocks, so does the footstool.  Sometimes he would lean against me.  I would read; my grandson would talk or ask a question; I would respond.  We read and talked our way through the book. Scarry's book is richly detailed, every page crowded with illustrations.  My grandson loved the mouse fireman, the bakery ovens in the shape of a loaf of bread, and the cut-away view of the sewer.  He wanted to discuss what each person did--farmer, fireman, plumber, sewer worker, carpenter, music teacher, writer, business person, etc., etc.  There was even a poet writing--where else?--in the top floor of a tower.  Scarry shows how paper is made, how a house is build, a farm run, a fire put out, a child rescued, tonsils removed, omitting the gore. 

We read for more than an hour, conversing.  When we came to the end, my grandson said, "That's the last page."  He put the book away, took my hand, and we went downstairs.  He said he wanted to go outside and collect "unusual things."  Obediently I followed him.  

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