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What are you reading (to your kids)?

First, a public service announcement for a cause that I love, being a reading fanatic (and a mom, to boot): October 6 is Jumpstart’s Read For The Record — an annual campaign in support of closing the education gap for lower-income kids.

The idea is that on one day, adults around the country will read one book (this year, it’s Llama Llama Red Pajama) to a child or children. While it may be too late to buy or borrow a copy, you can read the book online with a child for free.

Bottom line: if you like reading, educational equality and llamas and/or red pajamas, this is the easy-to-do event for you!

I’ll definitely be reading the book (online, because planning ahead isn’t my strong suit lately) with the girls.  The novelty factor of it being on my computer will only sweeten the deal for them, multimedia trailblazers that they are.

On a related note, I have a question: When did you (or do you plan to) start reading chapter books to your kids? You know, the kind without pictures.

Elsa and Clio love being read to, which warms the very cockles of my soul. (What are cockles? And why does my soul have them? No matter.) But they’re basically only interested in picture books. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. But I am really looking forward to when I can start reading them some meatier stuff. Admittedly, not just for their sake, but for mine. I am excited to revisit some books I read and loved as a child — Charlotte’s Web, the Little House books, Ramona, SuperFudge.

So far, we’ve had the most (but still, limited) success with a couple of “adapted” versions of The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. At first, I kinda looked down my bibliophilic nose at them. Adapted? Tut tut, we should be reading them in the original!

But these books actually do a decent job of staying true to the spirit and cadence of the originals while simplifying and abridging some of the stuff that might bore / bewilder the four-year-old set. (As it is, I sometimes have to explain words or concepts — e.g. What is a thimble? Why are they called munchkins? Are they donuts? — but I like that.)

There are also pictures every few pages, which help, although the girls immediately want to know what’s happening in the pictures, rather than waiting for the text to explain it. Although we have this issue with picture books, too.

Overall, this first foray into chapter book land has gone reasonably well. Sometimes I have to cajole the girls a bit into letting me read them, but they’re usually happy once we get started, provided they’re not too exhausted.

A couple of weeks ago they seemed to be so into the whole thing that I  — very cockily — thought: Hey! Maybe they’re ready for Harry Potter! I’ve only read the first book (which, as I recall, isn’t too scary or dark) and I’ve always looked forward to reading the rest to / along with the girls. Maybe, I thought, it was time!!

Ha! We barely made it past the first page.

“What are Dursleys?”

“That’s their name. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. They’re his aunt and uncle, and he lives with them.”

“Why doesn’t he live with his mommy and daddy? Are they dead?”

“Yes. A bad wizard killed them.”

And a wizard is a boy witch. Because boys can’t be witches.”

“Well, they can actually — well, warlocks, I guess. But wizards are slightly different. They’re more powerful (?) And wizards can be girls. There are some girl wizards later in the book. And Harry is a wizard. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Why not?”

“We’ll find out later. Let’s read a little more…”

[Three sentences later...]

“Wait, what’s a Dursley again?”

“Maybe you guys aren’t quite ready for this book yet, huh?”

“Yeah, I don’t think we’re ready. Can we watch Dinosaur Train instead?”

So, guess I jumped the gun a little there, but it was worth a shot. I am now trying to force Stuart Little down their throats — They like mice! And it has pictures! And no wizards! — but I’m not optimistic. Nevertheless, I shall persist, in small doses. And maybe, as is the case with food, they’ll develop a taste for it. Eventually.

Et vous, mesdames at messieurs? Have you had any luck reading chapter books to your preschoolers / kindergarteners? Any suggestions for good books or techniques to get them into the pictureless groove? I await your wisdom.

 

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