Monday, October 06, 2008

Developmental Reading

E didn't read much over the summer. Between playing outside on the one hand, and the lure of screens on the other, reading kind of fell off the menu. But she'd also hit a kind of reading plateau. She'd exhausted her favorite American Girl books, and she would finish the first-grade-girlish sorts of books she leaned toward--Cobble Street Cousins, Fairytopia--in less than an hour, which was neither satisfying in the moment nor conducive to long-term reading commitments. In fact, I actually considered pitching a series of high-reading-level, young-content books somewhere, thinking it might make my fortune, like the low-reading-level, high-school-content books currently being marketed with a great deal of success, but then I realized that the market was probably a lot smaller...

And then we went camping. Lots of playing outside, but no screens, which left plenty of time to read. I'd pushed her to bring some books, just before we left, and she grabbed, probably at my suggestion, a few of M's Abby Hayes books. Oh, Abby, fifth-grade favorite of second-grade girls. M discovered Abby in second grade, which is probably why I seem never to have blogged about her (i.e. it was PB--pre-blogging). Abby's mom is a high-powered lawyer, her dad is a stay-at-home dad/computer consultant who cooks a lot, her older twin sisters are a genius and a star athlete, her younger brother excels at robots and computers, and she's just a normal girl who loves to write. In other words, Abby is a feminist mom's girl-book dream, and E totally fell for it.

When we got home from camping, she read a bunch more Abby Hayes (in random order, unlike M, who is a stickler for chronology). I don't know if Abby was an entrypoint into M's bookshelves--certainly she had combed said shelves before and found nothing--but all of a sudden, E has once again become a reading machine, and she has made a significant leap, without any encouragement on our part.

After Abby, she read Dancing Shoes, and the first Mallory Towers book--and that made me feel quite warm and sentimental inside, because I know exactly when M started reading Mallory Towers: when we were in London, when she was exactly as old as E is now, practically to the month, and of course I adored Mallory Towers as a girl, though I think I was a little older (my old copies were packed away in my dad's basement, so the girls read M's British new editions, but the old ones are back in my bookcase).

Now she is reading National Velvet, in the 1930s edition from my childhood (which was perhaps from my mother's childhood? I'm quite sure my copy of Roller Skates was my mom's--ooh, I bet E is going to love that one!). National Velvet is a bit of a challenge--tonight we discussed dialect, Hiawatha, who Malvolia is (up to that point she's referred to as Mally), and how back then they had dinner and supper instead of lunch and dinner (that was from her: "Mommy, does this book take place when they used to have dinner and supper instead of lunch and dinner?"). And she's only up to page 25 or so. But, clearly, she's sticking with it.

I'm not sure there's an analytic payoff to this post. I can't explain why E is suddenly reading again--well, yes I can: she's reading again because she's found books she wants to read which are, to my joy, but also as I might have predicted, books her sister read at the same age, many of which I read as well. So the leap she has made is cognitive, not reading-based: she can now appreciate books that are more complex and focus on older, real girls. This, I think, is the leap that will ensure she stays a reader, not that I was worried. Mainly, though, I'm very pleased.

As for M, her most recent developmental leap has nothing to do with reading, unless you count the cookbook: yesterday she made her first tarte tatin (but it looked nicer than that one).


Jenny Davidson said...

It is good, you are bringing up your children with a good command of reading, swimming and baking, 3 important pleasures! Hmmmm, swimming update?!?

postacademic said...

How did I get to be 41 and not know anything about Malory Towers?