Monday, March 22, 2010

Reading just happens ... really.

Even when you don't have cable, you still wind up watching mindless crap, we've found. We've also discovered that there's never anything good on the tele on Monday nights. When that happens, we wind up reading our daily Wall Street Journal, chatting and taking in bits and pieces of a home show on one of the network's HGTV substitutes called Live Well HD.

A segment this evening was about making a reading area for children. The host covered different types of shelving, lighting and other ambiance-enhancing items. She suggests having comfy pillows, reading mats and small LED lights (which don't emit any heat) - mostly from IKEA, of course. She also imparted the importance of having a place in your home where parents and children can read together.

Then she described how her son loves Godzilla and how they read books about Godzilla together and how they talk about the story afterward. To which my husband said, "Yeah, and then he stomps all over the pillows and hits his sister with them, right?" She went on to talk about how she and her son "made" their own book and hung it on a bulletin board in his reading corner.
After listening to this, I'm convinced this woman is lying about having children or is on Prozac or her kids are on some sort of drug.

Let me first say this: There is no such thing as confining one activity, like reading, to an "area" when you have children. They are like a gas ... they take up all available space. Try as I may to make distinct play areas for the children, their toys wind up in the kitchen, the bathroom, the hallway, my bathtub, their bathtub, beneath my bed, in the hampers, in the sink, under the dining room table ... well, you get the idea. Everywhere I look on my evening cleanup jaunt, there's a toy mingling with the dust bunnies. Some nights, to avoid bending over one more time, I just leave them to enjoy each other's company on the floor.

Anyhow, here's what happens when I read my son a book about his favorite topic: cars. He shouts, "Gotta get my cars" then runs them up and down my legs and arms and in my hair and throughout the roads in the book, making vroom-vroom noises the whole time. Oddly enough, despite the seemingly distracted behavior, he can later retell the story.

We do have a few shelves with books within the kids reach. Here's what happens: Every morning, Godzilla-ette clears books from the shelf in Danny's room, then moves on to the shelves in her bedroom and the living room. She does bring me books and lets me read to her, though, unlike her brother at that age who was more interested in, well, anything else. And as for making his own book? His attention span for anything remotely crafty is maybe 2 minutes. Then his sister would get a hold of his craft and try to eat it.

We have a tent with pillows and a blanket in it for the kids to chill out in. Here's what happens: They rough house in the tent, hit each other with pillows and roll around. Eventually one hurts the other, everyone's in tears and I have a headache.

As for having a place for children and parents to read together, well, reading happens everywhere in our house from the kitchen table over breakfast and lunch to the bathroom on the potty and in the tub to the bedroom to the living room and even sometimes while he's watching television (yes, my kid watches television and still managed to develop an interest in books. imagine that.).

Seems to me that the mantra to read, read, read to your children as early as possible is rather overbearing. If you do have a kid who is interested in books early on, great. If not, no big deal. That interest will develop whether or not you reserve an "area" for them to engage in that activity or incorporate reading into your routines. If my kid is more interested in eating the book or flipping the pages, forcing the activity on them will likely turn them off to reading, wouldn't you think? This incessant read, read, read mantra seems to be born of a deep-seated mistrust in the innate ability and desire of children to learn with little prompting from adults.

Here's the dirty little secret: You and what you are doing is the most interesting thing in the world to your kids. (Seriously, it's why they stalk me when I'm doing laundry or emptying the dishwasher or making dinner or reorganizing a cabinet. And later, when I could reasonably expect some help with these things, they will, of course, be completely uninterested.) If they see you reading, then they'll want to read, too. No special area complete with IKEA furniture is required, really.


Momastery said...

love it sister. so true.
how do i "follow" this blog? i cant find the follow button! i want you to show up on my dashboard for the other monkees but im having technical difficulties.

Josee Meehan said...

Hi G, I put the followers button back on my page. I had taken it off for a while ... loved chase's post today!