Thursday, April 15, 2004

Reading aloud

Helena will be 17 months old in a few days. She does not particularly enjoy being read to.

We once made it to just two pages shy of the end of Are You My Mother?, but generally to hold her attention through a typical board book, front to end, is impossible.

Does it mean anything? Is she destined to not enjoy books? Is her attention span really short? How do most kids relate to books? To being read to? Honestly, how many parents read to their kids? Regularly? Do they actually read the storybooks, or do they talk about the pictures and go off on various tangents? How long are these stories? Do the kids enjoy being read to? Or have they learned to put up with it?

I'm preparing myself to accept that Helena is absolutely her own person and in no way an extension of myself. Her personality is stronger every day, and it's not mine.

What if she doesn't like to read?

I'm following with interest Reading to My Kid, as well as some more typical diary-type mommy blogs, for the answers to my questions. She who reads to her kid seems to have a librarian's sensibility regarding children's books, so I will take notes. I haven't a clue what makes a good children's book, what holds a child's attention.

Sure, I remember the books I enjoyed when I was little, but I don't remember any books before I discovered Nancy Drew. (I don't remember much about any aspect of life before that time.)

I certainly do not remember being read to, though my sister (who was into her teens when I was toddling) assures me it happened, at least occasionally. I turned out all right. Somehow I even came to love books.

Are readers born, or made?

I do read aloud while Helena does other stuff. And for months she's enjoyed "reading" by herself. She climbs into the chair, book in hand, and goes back and forth through it, pointing and mumbling-as-if-reading.

Since when is reading something other than a solitary pursuit anyway?

Bookninja pointed to this article on Alberto Manguel. (Makes me wish I'd gone to see him at Blue Metropolis.)

Manguel as a teenager was asked to read to a blind Jorge Luis Borges. Blindness. That's one good reason for being read to.

I recall the movie La Lectrice, in which a young woman's services as a reader were for hire.

Perhaps to enjoy being read to demands an old-world sensibility.

Many people attend readings, for many reasons, but these have more to do with the social rather than intimate aspects.

Do lovers really read to each other in bed?

Reading aloud to children can help inspire literacy and discussion, respect for literature, even an intimacy with books. But I'm not sure it creates readers where there were none before.

Helena has already learned that books have many purposes: seating, building blocks, chewing material, as well as entertainment from the content within. It'll be up to her if she likes what they have to tell her, and if she wants to hear about it or find it out for herself.
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