Lest you think we sit around with the shades pulled listening to early Smiths albums and reading Sylvia Plath all the time, I’d like to share with you something that brings us joy on a regular basis.
It should come as no surprise that our son loves to read. We read to him daily, and we often have multiple story times each day. We have dinner time stories and bedtime stories, as well as impromptu story-readings throughout the day. We are a book-loving family, and J and I both adore reading to our son. After BG’s bath at night, we all gather on the sofa and read a pile of books. It’s usually just two, but it can be up to four or five depending on how persuasive BG is (or how cooperative he has been with his nighttime routine). We have our favorites, most of which have a nighttime theme, but we also introduce new ones from time to time. For Christmas, BG’s grandma gave him some lovely new books that we all enjoy.* These have become welcome additions to our bedtime repertoire; in fact two of them are must-reads nearly every night.
A few nights ago, BG asked J to sit in front of the fire with him and read. I was taking too long to come join them, so he wanted to get started without me. My wife obliged. BG grabbed a book, opened it, and proceeded to read the title page (for some reason in this particular book, he likes us to read the title, author, and illustrator). Then he opened the next page, and he “read” the entire next page (essentially two stanzas of four lines each). He turned the page and kept “reading.” He was spot on with what he was reading, despite the fact that there were plenty of words he hadn’t heard anywhere but this book. Eventually, he got a little shy and asked J to finish reading, but we were faily impressed with his memorization. Then last night, he did this again. We had two books remaining to be read, so he grabbed the book he had read to J a few nights prior and began to read it to us. He needed prompting a couple of times on later pages, but he “read” all twenty-four pages of the book to us. We then moved on to the next book in his lap. This is a much more complicated book. It’s prose; it contains dialog; much of the prose is descriptive and, well, long–we’re talking a good sized paragraph on each page.
I started to read this one, and BG picked up a few words in. And he kept going! We would turn a page, offer a couple of words as a prompt, and he would keep going. He has the entire 32-page book memorized. My wife and I just encouraged him along, mouthing “Wow!” behind his back with each new page. We were totally awed.
This isn’t the first time BG has memorized books. Even six to eight months ago, he was finishing the last word or two of most pages in If You Give a Moose a Muffin and later in Hop on Pop, but he had never memorized and repeated whole pages, let alone whole books.
I know this is just something kids do, that they have these amazing memories, and they benefit greatly from repetition, but that doesn’t make this any less magical to me–this moment of having my child so engaged in what we read him that he commits it to memory, that he repeats it back with precision and care and pride. What a wonderful thing to see him feel so accomplished. Honestly, I don’t know that this says anything about what kind of reader or student or person he’ll be, but I hope it means he’ll enjoy reading, that he will continue to get so excited about his books that he wants to share them with us in return, that he will keep finding this family reading time as precious as J and I do.
*If you’re looking for some great nighttime books, these are just a few of our current favorites for bedtime:
- Lights Out, Night’s Out by William Boniface (and beautifully illustrated by Milena Kirkova)–this is also one of those cool “animotion” books and also the first of the books mentioned above
- Leo the Lightening Bug by Eric Drachman (illustrated by James Muscarello)–the second book mentioned above
- So Sleepy Story by Uri Shulevitz
- The Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
- Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
- In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak