Lost in a book

At the library, Berkeley, CA.

My boy is reading now and, true to little sibling form, he is doing everything humanly possible to keep up with his big sister.  Devil–and reason–take the hindmost.

He won’t quite torture himself with the erudite works she plows through, fortunately (Camus, Kafka, Sartre, Dostoyevsky). (OK, I exaggerate, but really, she scares me.)

He does keep picking up and chomping into books which his school would probably call “just wrong” books.  As opposed to the “just right” books they suggest. You know, stuff whose vocabulary you understand at least half of.  But I’m not snatching the “just wrong” books from his hands yet. It’s still such a thrill for him to have joined the party, and I can’t bear to tell him–ever in front of his sister–that he might actually enjoy a little lighter fare.  We’ll get to that soon enough.

Yesterday, at the library, he brought over a Roald Dahl book for my inspection (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) and said, “This is funny-looking!” I had to say, “Yes, that would be because it’s in French.”

He looked at me, blinked for a moment, and returned it to the shelf.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (“just wrong,” but not that far off, and at least in English) is what he chose to keep his imagination spinning.  And spin it did.

7 thoughts on “Lost in a book”

  1. When did he get so big?

    Is a book ever “just right”? I think that understanding the entirety of a book is overrated in the extreme. Books can grow and develop with you – I think of the ones that I read in middle and high school and loved, and that I can re-read now with deeper understanding and appreciation. Of the “children’s” books that still speak to me. Any book he reads, he’ll get something out of it, and that will keep him reading.

    • I wish I could tell you when he got so big. It sneaks up on me, too.

      And I tend to agree that there is a lot to multiple passes–learning like oil painting (layer after layer, laid one on top of the other), rather than watercolor (plotting and penciling out, and then–whoosh! a single brush stroke and that’s all you get). I do a lot of speaking to these kids kind of bilingually: first pass in one language–mine, or rather with my own natural adult vocabulary–and then the next pass in theirs, if the lack of response (or a negative response to the question, “Do you know what [X] means?”) calls for it.

      Another way I look at intellectual engagement and teaching and learning with these kids is like a tennis game: I try to keep hitting the ball juuuust at the edge, and every now again just past their ability to reach. So they keep reaching and strengthening an ever widening capacity. What I get from this, invariably, is a sense of sheer amazement at the depth of thought there, if only I would look long and hard enough.

      • Yes. I find that intentionally “hitting the ball” just out of reach usually shows me how much more amazing my kids are than I had realized.

        Nice art metaphors, too – have you been hanging out in my house?

  2. Perfect.

    I recently had to let Roozle down when she handed me a French book to read her, that I can’t read in French. She was so disappointed.

    I love the book reading acrobatics.

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