I just finished the research portion of a huge presentation I've been working on with a bunch of co-workers! This is in no way related to my blog, but I needed to share. Woo! TGIFF! (Do you need to ask what the extra "F" is for?)
Landismom's recent-ish post over at her site reminded me that I've been meaning to write about young Master Sam's evolving reading habits.
Before Sam came along, I had some pretty romantic ideas about how I'd someday read to my baby and how he or she would grow up loving books and how we would have this beautiful lifelong dialogue about literature and life that would always keep us close, no matter how far apart we might be.
I don't know how other book-loving parents reacted when this happened to them, but I don't think "utterly heartbroken" is too strong a phrase for how I felt the first time my budding young Lionel Trilling pitched a screaming fit when we were three pages into a book. Or the first time I proudly presented him with his very own book to hold... and he immediately tried to rip out the pages. I barely survived these experiences. If he turns into one of those toddlers who scribble in books, you may find me lying dead on the floor with my cold, stiff hands clutching my chest in horror.
Oh, we had some marginal early successes. For a brief shining period, I could pluck a reluctant smile from our formerly grim little baron if I read Green Eggs and Ham in just the right way. And you may recall my recounting how the opening passage to The Wind in the Willows helped Sam through a bout of post-nap weltschmerz. And we do read Goodnight Moon every night before bed, though we seldom make it all the way through. (Sam twigged to his pre-bedtime schedule pretty quickly: dinner, tooth-brushing, bath, and storytime, followed by nursing and bed. You see where the story falls in the timeline? Sometimes all Sam does is see the book before he's writhing in my lap, trying to turn around and pull my shirt up over my head.)
For the most part, Sam has always been more the adventurer sort. Until recently. It's too early to call, of course, but I'm holding out for appending that title to adventurer-scholar. My boy, the Victorian renaissance man. I'm already designing his library, complete with wooden bookcases and little oxblood leather wing chairs and butterflies under glass cases. When do you think is a good age for this sort of set-up? Three? Four?
These days, Sam no longer just suffers me to read to him. He chooses books -- he has his own shelf on the bottom of our big bookcase for his big-kid books, as well as a basket of board books next to his toybox -- and brings them over to me to read to him. And at the risk of sounding, well, like a totally typical parent, I must tell you that it's the Cutest Thing Ever. Our customary reading posture is me sitting cross-legged on the floor with him parked in my lap. So when Sam wants to read, he gets his book then does this hilariously awkward backward crawl toward me, scooching his butt at my lap much like a person getting down off the roof dangles their foot searchingly for the top rung of the ladder. Frequently he falls short of the mark and lands butt-first a foot or so away. Darling, yes?
If you're still reading, first, god bless you. And second, I thought I'd make a little list of some of Sam's totally uncoached favourite reads these days. If you know any 14-month-olds -- or you just want to get in touch with your own inner toddler -- they (or you) might get a charge out of them, too.
The Peace Book by Todd Parr
This unrelentingly hippy-ish picture book is Sam's talking-down-from-the-ledge book. When he's super-crabby, all I have to do is show him this book and he'll mopishly rein in his grumps, almost despite himself. Each page starts with the line "Peace is..." and then offers a colourfully illustrated definition. Did you know that peace is having lots of books? Of course you did. Did you also know that peace is keeping someone warm? It is, indeed. Sam's favourite page, however, is "Peace is giving a hug to a friend." Awww.
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton
The Peace Book was a thoughtful gift from Libby and Sam's little buddy Jonah. Libby sure knows how to pick 'em, because she also gave Sam another mainstay of his top five list, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs. We've read this book so many times, I have it committed to memory, from the opening line, "A long time ago there were dinosaurs," to the closer, which is accompanied by an illustration of some sleeping triceratops (triceratopses?), "And there were very tired and very, very sleepy dinosaurs. Dinosaurs, dinosaurs, a long time ago." It's a sweet little book, so long as you ignore the ominous suggestion that all the dinosaurs went extinct because they fell asleep and didn't wake up.
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
DoppelSis gave this book to Sam on her recent visit, and he LOVES it. You may already be familiar with the cautionary rhyme in which five little monkeys persist in jumping on the bed, despite the exasperated warnings of the family doctor, and despite the fact that, one by one, they're removed from the equation by terrible head injuries. The irony of this book is that, while counting and rhyming are fun, they're not nearly as much fun as jumping on beds. Fortunately, irony is still lost on Sam. The hardest part of reading this book aloud is fighting the urge to make up your own dire lyrics about the dark fate of "Twelve Little Monkeys."
Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever!
Sam fascinatedly PORES over the hundreds of pictures in this huge illustrated dictionary-like book for toddlers. I love a reference book as much as the next person, but to be honest I don't quite get the appeal of this book for Sam. It's a great book, yes, but I would've pegged it as better fare for a three- or four-year-old. Perhaps he's doing research for his novel. I don't know. Whatever it is he's studying for, he's not telling.
Wow! Babies! by Penny Gentieu
Sam finds the babies in this book of photography almost as entrancing as the hundreds of pictures we show him of himself in iPhoto. Each two-page spread shows a half-dozen or so pictures of babies, all centred around a theme, such as eating or sleeping or even crying. Sam is captivated by them all, but his hands-down favourite is the collage of babies smiling and laughing, which never fails to crack him up.
Got any suggestions for books for toddlers? My ears are always open.