Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Short attention span theater

"Read to your child, 15 minutes a day."

PBS Kids taunts me with this line every day. I can't get my child to sit still long enough to change his diaper, let alone read to him for 15 minutes a day.

This is one of the few child-rearing issues that cause me a certain degree of angst. I want Dan to enjoy reading, as his father and I do. For us, reading is the ticket to learning anything we're curious about. We plan on homeschooling and I often fear that he won't learn to read under our guidance. I've wanted to incorporate reading into the bedtime routine for a long time. Early on, we tried reading to him, but it never held his attention, he squirmed in our arms, he grabbed at the pages.

His relationship with books has gone through stages in the past six months. His first interaction with books consisted of knocking them off shelves and crawling all over them. Then, he moved on to chewing the books. Recently he's taken an interest in how the pages turn and sometimes he gives a three-second glance at the pages.

How to get him to the next level, that was the question.

One strategy of the baby marketing machine is to show the same episode of a children's program several days in a row. This builds familiarity with the characters and story. If you don't believe me, watch PBS Kids sometime. By week's end, you'll know the lines by heart.

So, I decided to employ the strategy with a book. I chose The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. It has attractive art work, a recurring verse and a surprise ending that Dan has learned to anticipate. The story is simple and sweet ... a young cricket longs to make a sound by rubbing his wings together as many other crickets do. But, alas, he can't until nightfall and then, as you turn to the last page, you hear the sound of a cricket’s song.

Now, finally, he sits still for five minutes or so while I read to him. Then, when we're done, I go back through the book and point out objects like the sun, the moon, an apple, a luna moth, the grass, etc. He digs it. He even laughs at certain parts when I do different voices for the different insects.

What a relief. There's hope for him after all.

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