“Read to me some of what you’re reading,” my not-quite-three-year-old would say at bedtime.

When she first asked, I thought that I would seize the opportunity to read something that she would find boring enough to fall asleep to while listening: Virgil’s Aeneid.

Unfortunately, as I read on and on, she grew interested in it. She’d actually foiled my plan to induce sleep by epic poem.

“Okay,” I thought to myself. “If I’m going to read something to her, I may as well read something that interests me.”

At first, I started reading T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, but once The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock popped into my head, I abandoned the longer poem in favour of Prufrock.

To my utter surprise, she loved it. She asked questions; she asked me to repeat words and to repeat lines and to repeat stanzas. I read through it more than once that night — then, I read it to her every night for years.

I wrote down many of her statements and questions about the poem — here are a few.

April 29, 2012 (5 years old):

Me: ‘Am not Prince Hamlet…nor was meant to be.’

Frances: I think he is lying; I think he IS the prince.

Me: Do you mean that he is more like those people than he realizes?

April 16, 2013 (5 years old):

Frances: Who is he talking to? Maybe a princess who is about to be married?

August 24, 2013 (6 years old):

Frances: Are there other voices, other songs of Prufrock?


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