Epic reading 

I’m glad to see that her recent interest in listening to music on her iPod isn’t interfering with her reading.

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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.

Shelter in books

My family and I like to reminisce about the camping trip during which we had sought shelter in a bookstore, first from an unbearably hot summer afternoon and then from a tornadic storm later that day.

I was not surprised by the fact that we ended up in a bookstore as we all love books in our family; yet, nobody in our home appreciates a book as much as Frances does.

I first noticed Frances’s fascination with books when she was about five months of age. As she approached toddlerhood, she would peruse them and turn pages in a manner suggestive of a preschool-age child. (To be clear, she was certainly not reading.)

Frances did not play with toys, and she paid attention to household objects and books only. She did not tolerate “tummy time” on the floor until she was eleven months of age, but once she did, she reached for books.

She constantly requested, by pushing books against my abdomen or arms, that books be read to her, from about 12 months of age. (At eight years, she will still grab my hands to put a book in them.)

At home, from about the age of 13 months or so, she would use books to make other things, such as towers, and I often found many dozens of books encircling the dining room table like a sidewalk or lined up side-by-side as she aged.

At the library, during every visit,  I would eventually have to ask her to go play because my throat would be hurting from reading at least 30 books. (Hard candies helped, too.)

At bedtime, for years, I would read more than ten books every night until recently.

Now, she also reads to me at bedtime, and as her tastes become more obvious to both of us, I’m getting to know her as a reader.

I have a wonderful opportunity to watch as the concept of a book gains dimension to her through reading, and I like to think that she, my ear-covering daughter, is still finding shelter there from a noisy world.