The time has come

Our wuggy-boys love books. I remember feeling so guilty when they were smaller, because I didn't really read to them much at all. The experts all say that the only way to instill a love of books in your children is to start reading to them pretty much at birth.

And I did start reading to them at birth... Jane Austen and C. S. Lewis, and sundry texts on the philosophy and psychology and pop-neurology of music. The boys just ate it up. The sound of my voice, continuous and rhythmic in the ever changing variety of inflection... somehow, even without any vocabulary or context or anything, somehow it told a story that nourished their little souls.

That all changed, however, right about the time that I would have thought they could start really getting into picture books. Books were great for teething on, and tearing, and even for the exploration of hinge action. But reading? Oh, Mom, please give us a break.

So, guiltily and with much anxiety, I did pretty much give them a break. I did make an effort to read to them occasionally, but it was pretty much a miserable experience all around... it was very occasional indeed.

I don't remember exactly when the boys started liking books again, but I'm pretty sure that Curious George had something to do with it. At any rate, being read to is one of the great joys in their lives, and if nobody happens to be reading to them, they will gladly sit for hours quietly flipping through picture books. Or high school trigonometry texts, for that matter. (Seriously. Once, Andy watched Isaiah turn through every single page of a very large textbook, carefully examining every graph and diagram and illustration.) It's rather strange, because I thought that toddlers were supposed to have short attention spans. I think it must be hereditary--I can't think of anyone with a longer attention span than their father.

Anyway, over the past few days, I've been noticing that the boys have started actually reading their books. Not reading in the proper sense of forming words and sentences out of the letters on the page, but really describing and interpreting the pictures. Reading them. They aren't just enjoying the sensory stimulation of all the shapes and colors, aren't just enjoying the thrill of recognizing a ball and a monkey and a road and a lake and a bicycle. They're carefully observing that the monkey is wearing a hat and carrying a ball while he rides his bicycle on the road around the lake. And all that really seems to be the same sort of thing as reading. It's all symbol interpretation.

And then, yesterday, as we were getting ready to go to the market, I left a note for Andy. Isaiah was fascinated, and gleefully pointed to the beginning of the word "potatoes."


I wasn't sure if he actually recognized the letter, or if he just knew that I was writing a bunch of letters, and so called out the name of a letter at random. But one way or another, I guess it's time to start working on the alphabet.

Which, to be perfectly honest, scares the daylights out of me.

They're supposed to still be my babies.


Brian said...

I highly recommend Sesame Street videos. We've been given a few as gifts and Autumn has already learned to recognize many (maybe all, but it's hard to test) of the letters of the alphabet. I've read a lot about Sesame Street and been surprised to find that there is a great deal of science behind how the shows are structured.

I was also surprised to find that the target age is 2-4 years. I read an interview in Newsweek (I think it was a September 2006 issue) where a Sesame Street executive basically discourage parents from having their children watch the show if they aren't in the 2-4 age range. The best thing about Sesame Street is that it's fun for the kids to watch and interact with. We (parents and kids) often sing the songs in the car or quote notable passages.

The other thing that Autumn has enjoyed is drawing letters with bath crayons (in the bath, of course). We usually draw whatever letter she requests, but she tries too.

Brian said...

We also sing the ABC's a lot. A whole lot.