Tagged Reading

How (Not) to Read With a Toddler

reading-1156865_1920Today we will be discussing reading with your toddlers. An activity vitally important to their development, and precious time spent with your darling children. We all look forward to the time when our babies will start to enjoy books, right? Spending quiet, peaceful time together, sharing the books we loved as children, and fostering a lifelong love of reading in our offspring. Everyone agree? Right, let’s talk about the realities then, shall we.

First off, it should be noted that toddlers do enjoy books. They have a very special way of enjoying books. Here is a guide to participating in that enjoyment. This is how to read a bedtime story (or fifty) with a toddler. Please note that, unlike many of my toddler how to guides, this is not how to read a bedtime story with two toddlers. NEVER do that.

 
 
1. Behold the presented pile of fifty ‘favourite’ books, all of which have been read at least thirty thousand times. Since this morning. Remember nostalgically when you used to actually like some of these books. Ah, those innocent days when you had to open the book to know what the words were. You know, before they were burned into your memory and your retinas. Before they haunted your dreams.

2. Wonder briefly if the toddler could be persuaded to let you read something different for a change. Brideshead Revisited, perhaps? Catch 22? War and Peace? Consider having to read War and Peace thirty thousand times a morning to meet the demands of a Tolstoy crazed toddler. Scrap that idea.

3. Pick up a book. ‘No, not that one!’ The books must be read in a specific order. You cannot know what that order is (clue: it is not the order they are piled in). You will most definitely know which order is not correct. By the screams. You will still not be permitted to know the correct order. You will have to guess by picking up books at random and assessing the volume of the accompanying screaming and crying. This will go on for some time.

4. Finally start reading a book (it will be the last book you picked up). Note that reading, contrary to popular belief, is not a quiet and sedate activity. This is Extreme Reading. The toddler will be engaging in bedroom parkour throughout bedtime story time. Discover a small hand blocking your view of the words. Then a small head. On a particularly bad day, a small bum. Yes, you don’t actually need to see the words to read this book anymore. They are, after all, burned on your retinas. Nonetheless, this is quite irritating.

5. Continue reading the book. Do so at increasing volume, as the toddler picks up a different book and starts ‘reading’ that, shouting over you. Put down the book. ‘No! Mummy, read the book! I was listening to that!’ Have a discussion with a once again screaming toddler about how there is no point reading a book to someone who is reading their own book over you.

6. Return to reading, now with the toddler’s full attention. Discover the downsides to having a toddler’s full attention, as said toddler interrupts every other word to point at something in the picture and ask, ‘What’s that?’ Suspend all questions until the end of the book. Suspend all questions that consist of ‘what’s that’ until the end of the millennium.

7. Try to claw back some time (there are still forty-nine books to go) by skipping some non-essential bits/every other page. Find that the toddler is still paying attention: ‘You missed a bit! Go back!’ The book is also burned into the toddler’s memory. The toddler can recite it word for word. This being the case, wonder why you are being forced to read the sodding thing yet again.

8. The toddler will insist on turning the pages. This would be okay if the toddler turned the pages when you had finished reading them. Or if the toddler turned the pages in the right direction: ‘Hang on, just go back. I just want to look at…What’s that?’ Progress, which previously was merely excruciatingly slow, has now stalled altogether. In fact, you are going backwards.

9. When the end of the book is upon you at last (at least, you think it is – there is a head, a hand and a foot obscuring your view), answer questions about what happened in the book. So many questions that answering them amounts to telling the entire story again.

10. Repeat process with the other forty-nine books. Upon finally reaching the end of the pile, the toddler will bolt out of bed: ‘I just want to read one more book! I’ll just get it. Just one more book!’ The toddler will return with ten books. Realise that working on the toddler’s counting might be more useful than working on reading.

The Toddler Has Menu, Is Reading

The Toddler and The Baby are in a coffee shop with Silly Mummy and Silly Daddy. The Toddler has picked up a menu, and she is ‘reading’ it: ‘It says “tea cup”.’ There’s a picture of a tea cup.
The Toddler reads on: ‘It says “Dear The Toddler”.’ Of course. Everything The Toddler reads says ‘Dear The Toddler’..
The Toddler has not finished: ‘Yes, it says “Dear The Toddler, here are some teacups”.’ Very logical.
‘Once upon time there was a magical fairy.’ Less logical.

(A bit of background here: The Toddler has seen balloons in the coffee shop. They are not hers.)
The Toddler breaks off from her reading to ask: ‘Can I have a balloon?’
Silly Mummy and Silly Daddy answer unanimously: ‘No!’
The Toddler gracefully accepts this answer, and returns to reading the menu: ‘Says “Dear The Toddler, here’s a balloon from Mummy and Daddy”.’ Cunning.
Of course, The Toddler does not know when to stop and proceeds to lay it on a little too thick: ‘Says “Dear The Toddler, hope you have a nice time, love Mummy and Daddy”.’

Reading

ReadingThe Toddler has taken up reading. Which is to say she has taken up turning the pages of books, whilst narrating a combination of what she can see in the pictures & what she remembers of the story. ‘Baby…1,2,3…Bed…Sleep…Wake up…Peepo…Dog…Peepo…Grandma…
Glasses…Hat…Peepo…The end!’

The Toddler’s current favourite book is ‘The Gruffalo’. The Toddler loves ‘The Gruffalo’. Literally. She spends much of her time with her face inside the book saying, ‘Kiss a Gruffalo!’ The Toddler no longer gets out of bed until she has looked at ‘The Gruffalo’.

One day, when The Toddler is getting up, she asks to have both ‘The Gruffalo’ and The Baby in the bed with her. Silly Mummy warns The Toddler that The Baby will try to eat ‘The Gruffalo’ if she gets hold of it. The Toddler explains the situation to The Baby: ‘No, The Baby. No eat. This: Gruffalo! Read!’ The Baby understands. She puts ‘The Gruffalo’ in her mouth. The Toddler now follows every request for ‘The Gruffalo’ with, ‘The Baby can’t eat book!’ The Baby knows this is inaccurate. There are no books she ‘can’t’ eat. There are merely books people have been careless enough to leave in her reach, and books they have not.

The Toddler offers her reading services to those in need. She sits in bed with ‘The Gruffalo’ and teddy Binker. The Toddler announces, ‘Bink sad.’ She puts a blanket over Binker’s feet: ‘Tuck in. There – better. Read a Bink.’ She picks up ‘The Gruffalo’. She opens it. She pauses. She wonders if Binker needs to learn to look after himself. She closes ‘The Gruffalo’ and flings ‘James and the Giant Peach’ at Binker: ‘Bink, read this one, Bink.’ Binker looks at the book. He does not open it. He is too sad. The Toddler relents and opens ‘The Gruffalo’ again. Binker settles in for the story. He is not disappointed: ‘Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? Where going brown mouse? LUNCH OVER!’

The Toddler wants to ensure she is well read. She therefore reluctantly puts aside ‘The Gruffalo’ and picks up ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. Also known as ‘Purple Book’ and ‘George Story’, Daddy sometimes reads this book to The Toddler at bedtime. The Toddler turns the pages. She tells her abridged version of the story: ‘No, George. Stop it, George. Naughty George!’ Silly Mummy considers that this is actually a reasonable summary of the book. The Toddler may have a career writing blurbs ahead of her. (Assuming her first vocation of Planning Officer does not work out. The Toddler is a natural. All duplo constructions erected without the appropriate permissions are immediately demolished. Furthermore, should The Toddler see anyone contemplating starting a duplo construction without planning permission, she is on site immediately with a cease and desist order. Well, more of a snatch and yell ‘NO’ order, really, but the effect is the same. I digress.)

Some of The Toddler’s abridged versions of her books are more abridged than others. The Toddler brings ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ to Silly Mummy: ‘Mummy – read! Pea Pear Pum – read! Sit down there!’ Silly Mummy dutifully sits down there, opens the book and prepares to read.
‘No!’ The Toddler snatches the book away, ‘Me read!’
‘You want to read it yourself?’
‘Yes!’ The Toddler opens the book to the first page. She says, ‘Ee Pea Pear Pum.’ It is a good start. We are all very excited to learn what happens next in the thrilling story we feel sure awaits us. The Toddler turns to the very last page. She announces, ‘End!’ She slams the book shut. ‘All gone! Take away!’

Really, this reading lark is awfully easy. The title and the end are the important things. After all, it is clear to The Toddler that if the book has been both started and finished, it stands to reason that the book has been completed. Everything in the middle is very much optional. The Toddler wonders why people complain about how difficult it is to finish ‘War and Peace’. Do they not know where the ‘end’ page is?