When the Story Isn’t the Narrative

-posted by Meghan


Lately the kids have been doing lots of reading to me (and each other), and it’s amazing and completely joyful to see their literacy at age 2 1/2.  It’s also very surprising.  I’ve noticed that there are three kinds of reading that they do:

1.  They have memorized the book, and recite it back to me from memory.  Verbatim, page by page.  Jacob often does this the way I said the Gettysburg Address when I memorized it in fourth grade (or the way Claire Danes said her lines in Romeo and Juliet) – quickly, rote, and clearly without thinking about the meaning at all.  He can get through a long book- right now it’s David Shannon’s Too Many Toys- in under 2 minutes without either inflection or missing a word.  This one is surprising to me because I didn’t know they were capable at this age of such intense memorization.

2.  They tell me the story of the book, which goes along with the pictures, but isn’t in the words the author uses.  Molly’s favorite two books to do this with are Miss Spider’s Tea Party, and Go, Dog, Go.  She loves to talk about when Miss Spider is crying, and when she’s not crying anymore because “her friends came over.” And in Go, Dog, Go, she loves to tell me the color and size or each dog, what they’re doing, and what they’re not doing.   The only reason this is surprising is seeing how much life and inflection and expression she puts into pointing out that someone is sad, or making up a back story for why, and when they will be happy again.  It’s so charming (though if I think about it, probably isn’t surprising from our resident drama queen!).

3.  This is the most surprising to me- they look at the pictures, and their story has nothing to do with the author’s narrative.  Often, we read Where the Wild Things Are and just see where you can see Max’s buttons, and where you can’t.  Or we find all the pages where he’s carrying his scepter, versus the pages where he must have put it down.  Or we count how many of something there are on a page.  Or we look for one little thing- like a bowl of fruit on the table, and that turns into a story about going to the Farmer’s Market to pick out fruit, and what kinds of fruit are their favorites.

I guess my point is this- they are more literate and creative every day than I could imagine or hope.  And they continually remind me to read slower and find the narrative that speaks to me at that moment in time- in their books, in my books and in life in general.


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