Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Family hour

If you're a book person, one of the activities you probably look forward to doing with your children is reading a classic book in stages. I know Noel and I talked about reading Harry Potter or Winnie-the-Pooh or Chronicles of Narnia to our kids, all gathered around in the living room, a few pages a night.

It turns out that getting the whole family together for such a serial event isn't exactly easy. The way our kids' evening schedules have evolved, I end up reading with Cady Gray while Archer takes charge of his own books.

Up until now those books I read with Cady Gray have been picture books, mostly. But recently in the library she spotted The Meanest Doll In The World, the sequel to The Doll People (a book she got for Christmas and claims to have read on her own, though I have my doubts), and clamored for it. We started reading it together every night before bed, trading off paragraphs.

Last night we finished the last chapter, and it dawned on me what a milestone this was -- a 305-page, eighteen-chapter book recommended for grades 3-6. And we'd made it all the way through, me reading a paragraph, then Cady Gray. Obviously it means that her reading skills are outstanding, but it also means that she kept pace with an extended story. Frequently she'd look up at me with alarm or amazement and exclaim over the emotional significance of some event, predict what might happen based on the clues being dropped, or make a judgment about the truthfulness of a character. These are narrative interpretation skills that her brother still struggles with, not to mention an attention span that he reserves for Deal or No Deal.

It's a watershed moment for me, too. When I reminded Cady Gray just now that for the first time in a month, she needed to pick out a new book for us to read, she responded with excitement: "I know just the thing! A nice long book that will last us a long time. Wait right here!"

She returned with Charlotte's Web.

I think a tradition has been born.

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