04 December 2006

Keeping the Lines Open

It's a whole new reading world around here: last night we started reading Charlotte's Web (which Politica has never read). Curious Girl and I were at a bookstore yesterday and she was smitten with a little stuffed Wilbur, and as I'd told her she could get something at the bookstore, we ended up buying the little pig. I didn't see much point in buying a Wilbur without the book to go with it (something she was tickled with since the cheapest version of the book came with a beautiful necklace. "It's special to me, Mama," she earnestly explained several times. ). Over dinner, CG wanted me to read it aloud. And I did, two chapters. She paid attention. (So did Politica.) We just finished chapter 3, and we're having lots of fun.

"An hour of freedom is worth an hour of slops." Discuss.

We're not discussing much. I do stop and talk about the odd vocabulary word, or answer questions about a word (like what does slops mean, a question tonight). I envision later conversations about what we think about the books we read, but we're not quite there yet. Instead, Curious Girl plays with her Wilbur (which she named Albert for a while--I think confusing two boy names with [b] in the middle--then switched to Princess Aurora Wilbur A., and finally settled on Oinky. "I know he was Wilbur, Mama, but I want to change his name. To a girl name.") She picks up her Wilbur and talks to the illustrations. "Wilbur! I have you! I got you at the bookstore! Are you happy you came home with me? I love you!" When something happens--say, Wilbur walks into his little house under the apple tree--she picks him up and says "Did you do that?" And then I have to talk for the pig. Tonight, in chapter 3, she asked Wilbur why he sniffed at the trough when he was lonely at the start of the chapter. And then she used the stuffed pig to act out what he was doing, interspersing questions about why he needed to scratch his back on a board and why his back got itchy. And then she'd be quiet for a bit, until she wanted to interact with Wilbur again. She does remember the story, though (and she keeps asking Wilbur if he remembers his own story. I love this permeable boundary between real and pretend.)

This is interesting to me for about a zillion reasons, not the least of which is that her preschool teachers have told us that she is pretty consistently uninterested in story time at school, and they wondered whether we had thought about having her repeat pre-K for this and a few other reasons (a topic for another post). It's true, Curious Girl is not always a quiet story follower, although she loves libraries and books. I laughed when a developmental assessment at 18 months asked if my child relaxed at a bedtime story (the right answer was yes). CG has rarely relaxed for books--she likes to act them out. And she likes to re-read. Her favorite books at the library are the ones we've already taken out. I get new ones so they will turn into old ones at a later date.

Our other reading for the night was this article about the new Wiggle (you can see the Wiggles' own announcement at their website, which is amusing because it puts (color Wiggle) in parentheses after the Wiggles' names in the press release). Curious Girl left the dinner table for a moment so I started reading the Times for a second (the story about Jose Padilla), and when I hastily folded the front page over upon her return, I saw the Wiggle story. I showed her the photo (she didn't recognize Greg without his yellow shirt on), and she asked how Greg was feeling. I broke the news to her about how Greg wasn't going to be a Wiggle anymore because he was too sick to sing and dance all the time, but that there would be a new Wiggle. She took the news just fine (just like the other children mentioned in the article--and for the record, no trauma here in Granolaville about Greg's departure. We like the Wiggles just fine, but I'm not too attached to any of them as individuals. I'm not quite sure what to make of some of the mothers quoted in that article, although far be it from me to criticize other women's choice of comfort music in the wake of a divorce. I contradanced a lot after my separation/divorce, and that's not for everyone. To each her own.)

Curious Girl said, "read it to me." So I read her the headline. "No," she said, waving her finger over the story itself. "Read this part, down here." She's really paying attention to text these days, spelling out words when she seems them, asking me what things say. So I read her the article. I paraphrased quite a bit, I'll admit, since I didn't see the point of reading to her about mamas who were distressed about Greg's departure. Four year olds are suggestible, and I didn't want to give her the good idea to be upset. "Will we still see Greg on the TV?" she wanted to know. Absolutely. "I want to tell him!" So I held up the paper and she said, "Greg! Greg! I'll still see you on our TV sometimes." Then, "I wish I could hear his (new guy's) voice." On the inside part of the story, there was a picture of the new quartet, this time with each of them in Wiggle-wear. "He doesn't know Jeff falls asleep! I hope he learns," she laughingly explained. "I'll tell him." So she explained a few of the Wiggle traits to the new yellow guy, and then told him all about how she saw the Wiggles, but not him.

At one point in my reading, I mentioned that they had talked to some mamas about how Greg was sick. "You? Did they talk to you?" I said no, other mamas. "When will they call? They should talk to you!" she said.

At bedtime, she told me that reading the article about the new Wiggle was one of her favorite things. We'll be cutting the pictures out and putting them on the fridge (by the photo of Molly from the Big Comfy Couch, cut out two years ago and still talked to with some frequency). And I'm keeping the phone lines open just in case one of those Times reporters wants to know what I think about Greg leaving. You never know.

And I'm enjoying reading with my very curious girl.


liz said...

Sounds like CG is going to be a very interactive reader. Which is a good thing, since she'll probably have great reading comprehension!

MM loved seeing The Wiggles, too. I haven't told him Greg's leaving yet, since he actually seems to be moving on from them towards (ghu help us) Tutenstein.

LilySea said...

I love it! Classics AND current events!

My daddy read me Charlotte's Web aloud when I was very little. I don't know how little, but probably about CG's age. The only thing I remember earlier is the Pooh books...

Arwen said...

I read Charlotte's Web to Ripley, and I cannot stop myself from crying at the end. Ripley also acts things out with his animals, either concurrent to a non-picture book, or after reading a book with illustrations. I wonder if CG prefers the story and words and doesn't care as much about the pictures? Why sit down when you can dance and play to reading? (I certainly listen to the CBC that way.)

Ianqui said...

Charlotte's Web was easily one of my favorite stories ever. I liked books a lot, but I have to admit that Charlotte's Web was also one of the first videos we ever had, so I watched it over and over again, and cried every time at the end.

Maybe I should rent it again.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Oh, she is too cute, especially how she interacts with Wilbur.

I'm afraid to take AB to see the new Charlotte's Web movie, because I know I will be a WRECK at the end.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I am plotzing from the cuteness of her conversation with Wilbur. Also I'm impressed with the depth of her engagement with the book. I know that sitting still is an important school-skill, but I agree with Liz that she's showing amazing reading comprehension.

Genevieve said...

Yes, yes, fabulous comprehension by your curious girl! And adorableness as well.

Anonymous said...

Awww... the CG is so adorable. I love how you capture her in your stories-- it sounds so much like her, which is uniquely CG!

I loved Charlotte's Web-- it made me cry. I had the animated video and I watched it over and over (heck, it might be in your basement).

It is funny how CG's "Wiggles" response makes me think about my job in some ways-- I like to think of her as a little expert in crisis communications.

"Oh my goodness... there is a new Wiggle"

CG responses-- "uhh... let me get you a one-pager on who does what in Wiggle-land. I'll get your right up to speed."

"Greg is sick-- what will happen!?"

CG handling spin control-- "It is OK. Greg has some personal issues to work out, but we'll still see him on TV somtimes."

"What will people think about the change in the Wiggle line-up?"

CG on the phone with a reporter-- "I can get you a reaction from a great third-party validator-- my mama, she gives great quotes"


Scrivener said...

Yay for your little reader!

Suburban Gorgon said...

Oh, what a fabulous kid this is. I love the idea of her talking to the stuffed pig.