Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I love reading with a four-year-old...

Sometimes I see comments online (or even hear them said in real life) to the effect that it's so difficult to read to a small child, because they keep interrupting and it's impossible to read 'properly'. I usually respond that this is what it's supposed to be like - the words and pictures in a young child's book are the starting point for imagination and discussion, not something to be sat through and endured.

And since I had the privilege of reading to one of my favourite small people this morning, without further ado I present an approximate transcript:

E (nearly four-and-a-half) asked me to read 'Mister Magnolia' by Quentin Blake, after a couple of other books. I hadn't read it for a while and it's not too long; I was happy to oblige.

Me: 'Mister Magnolia, by Quentin Blake.'

I turned to the first familiar page and read the classic catchphrase that recurs throughout the book:

Mr Magnolia has only one boot. 

E: And a stripy shirt
Me: Yes, he does, but the words don't say that.
E: What do the words say?
Me: Mr Magnolia has only one boot.
E: You should say 'BOOOT' (said in a high-pitched tone).
Me: Mr Magnolia has only one BOOOT.  No, that sounds silly.
E: Read the words.
Me: I've read all the words on this page.
E: You didn't read the words on the other page.
Me: They're not very interesting.
E: Read them!
Me: Okay. Text and illustrations copyright 1980 Quentin Blake. All Rights Reserved. First published in Great Britain 1980 by Jonathan Cape Ltd.... are you sure you want me to continue?
E: Yes!
Me: (several more lines about where the book was first published in various countries)
E: Now the other page
Me: You know what it says.
E: It should say Mrs, that's a girl
Me: No, it's a man. Mr Magnolia
E: That long word, that says Magnolia
Me: That's right. And 'M-R' says 'Mister'.
E: I think it says OOT.
Me: Well the last word does if we cover up the 'b' at the front. Then it says 'Mr Magnolia has only one oot'.
E: You covered the 'b'
Me (uncovering it) Yes. That word says 'boot', so if I cover up the 'b' it says 'oot'
E: Turn the page!

Me (with relief) He has an old trumpet that goes rooty-toot--
E: That's a guitar case on the floor. So he must be a girl.
Me: Boys can have guitar cases too
(Brief digression involving other members of E's family about people of both genders whom we know who play the guitar, eventually agreeing that a guitar case could be owned by a man or a woman).
E: Why does he keep a trumpet in his guitar case?
Me: Ah. Good point. It's not a guitar case, it's a trumpet case.
E: It looks like a guitar case
Me: Yes, it does, but it's not really the right shape.
E: And Mr Magnolia has only one boot
Me: True, but it doesn't say so on this page.
E: Turn the page

Me:And two lovely sisters who play on the flute --
E: They are girls
Me: Yes, they're his sisters so they must be girls
E: I know they're girls because they have long hair. This one is VERY long
Me: True, but boys can have long hair. And girls can have short hair...
E: They're not very pretty
Me: No, and their dresses are too long. If they stood up they might trip over.
E: Do they have any boots?
Me: I don't know. We can't see their feet because the dresses are so long.
(Brief digression as we all discuss the possible footwear, or lack thereof, which the sisters might be wearing, and a comment about Quentin Blake's drawings always looking that way, and discussion about whether or not the sisters are actually lovely.. mention, too, of the cups of tea and biscuits shown in the picture, and whether they could eat biscuits while playing the flute...)
E: Next page!

Me: In his pond live a frog and a toad and a newt --
E: Which one is the newt? (points) I think that's the frog (pointing at the toad)
Me: No, the one squatting down is the toad, I think the other one is the frog.
E: Hmmm.
(I turn the page)

Me: He has...
E: Why are those birds making holes in his suit?
Me: Because they're parakeets
E: Why does he have them?
Me: I don't know. I don't think he should: that cage is too small for even one parakeet, and there are four of them in the picture.
E: Read it!
Me: He has green parakeets who pick holes in his suit --
E: What's that word? (points at the long one)
Me: Parakeets. A very useful word to be able to read...
(E's mother points out that it's at least phonetic)
(I turn the page)

Me: And some very fat owls who are learning to hoot --
H (E's six-year-old sister, who was busy doing something else) What is 'hoot'?
H&E's mother demonstrates hooting
E: But Mr Magnolia... go on, read the rest!
Me: But Mr Magnolia has only one boot.

By this stage, I was eleven pages into a book which - if read straight through - would only take about a minute to read, and we had been reading and discussing it for at least ten minutes.

I did finish the rest of the book rather more quickly... although we had further discussion about what a salute is, whether the dinosaur was realistic, and why it was raining.

Not every book is discussed this extensively - I think this is the longest we've ever taken with this particular one! - but this is the kind of conversation that makes reading aloud to young children so very enjoyable.

<--- and this is a link to 'Mister Magnolia' on Amazon UK, just in case anybody who reads this post is wondering what happened at the end of the story, or would like to have a copy to read to their own small child.

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