Literary critic

I just found this gem of a conversation. Frances had just turned four.

Frances: The ugly duckling is really a swan? The swan egg got accidentally into the duck nest? How could that have happened? That doesn’t make any sense…!

Me: Uh…

When it’s quiet…

One day, when Frances was about 18 months old, she took hundreds of children’s books off a set of shelves in the living room and stood on top of the haphazard pile to get more.

She sometimes lined the entire house with a path of books that encompassed the dining room table and led back to the front room.

From the time that she was seven months old, she perused books with an unusual intensity and focus.

As a toddler, she would push a book into my abdomen or my neck or my hands and say, “Read!”

By the time she was 2.5 years old, I was reading stacks and stacks of books to her daily (usually 20 but as many as 30 or 40 at times).

At the library, where most parents might be encouraging their children to choose books, I was popping throat lozenges and encouraging her to go play just so that I could give my voice a rest.

She cried if books got damaged in the tiniest way. She protested loudly if anyone had written their name inside a book. If she became angry with me, she would threaten that we would no longer be able to visit my favourite bookstore.

She always had a book in her hand (for comfort, I assume).

The local bookstore knew us so well that Frances was allowed to take a book and read under a table where she wouldn’t be disturbed.

When Frances is reading is pretty much the only time (besides sleeping) that it is quiet in our house — the ONLY TIME.

She’s a nonstop talker with a more-than-average amount of energy and bounce in her running steps.

The other day, after school, there was a prolonged period of quiet (say, five minutes). It was very noticeable which could only mean that she was reading. Then, I heard her say to herself:

“This book is not very instructive on drawing horses.”

I knew that, within a minute or so, the house would be virtually alive again with the sound of her chatter and laughter and objects banging around again as she searched for something that she absolutely needed.

It’s epic…

One of the best things we’ve done in the past year or so has been to sign up for an ebook subscription service for the kids.

For a monthly charge (pretty minimal), parents can monitor what is being read and even set aside books that they want the kids to read. They also receive a monthly report enumerating the books read (which includes a printable certificate).

Each kid has her own account, collects badges for reaching reading milestones and can favourite books that she really likes.

Some reading material…

While waiting for an appointment on Friday, I glanced down at a magazine to see what Frances happened to be reading: 

The article is actually a synopsis of sorts of a book of the selfsame title, but, at first glance, I was a little shocked.  ūüôā

(A teachable moment: I spoke with her about the extreme language of the book’s title, about publishers trying to grab the attention of potential readers etc., and she understood.)

Independence 

In our ongoing quest to help Frances with issues of separation, her behavioural therapist has her reading for an hour without me in the room every night. 

She has a chart, and for every night that she completes the hour she earns 5 points. Those points, at certain increments, can be saved and cashed in for rewards.

So far, it is not going too badly; however, I do find every once in a while that I’ll feel as if someone is watching me. I’ll look over and find her in her typical posture — arms around knees — looking up at me from the floor of the room that she’s in. She’ll have migrated from the bed with impressive silence. She’ll say she is lonely or that she misses me. She’ll say she wants a hug (and we’ll hug and cuddle).

Times like this remind me of her very sweet disposition.

Bedtime 

Frances: ‘Call me Ishmael’ – I love it!

She started reading Moby Dick the other night, and I didn’t reveal my reaction of surprise. 

Frankly, she doesn’t usually pick up (or even express an interest in) classic 19th-century literature at bedtime, but lately she will read aloud one small passage before turning to her more usual books of choice.

Then, last night, she found an audio version of Pride and Prejudice. She asked, “What is prejudice?” and “What is pride?” and then she fell asleep listening to the novel.

So, all this to say that our bedtime routine is changing to include more reading — and it’s a little surprising.