Read to Them… or NOT!

It’s a trilogy. Voyage to the Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells. Three tiny books about this little bunny that goes on all kinds of adventures… sometimes in actuality, other times, in her dreams. I’m not going to lie. I don’t know why three year-old Morgan is so fascinated by these books. There are no repeating or rhyming words or songs to sing like in Pete the Cat or Abiyoyo. Just this little rabbit and her adventures. But, Morgan LOVES these books, and she asks me to read them with her over and over again. She’s absorbed in them. She doesn’t even notice the people around her. The kids singing, the directors teaching… the other adults in the room. It’s just Morgan, that little bunny book, and me.

Reading with Morgan reminds me of a quote by Cynthia Rylant:

“Read to them… Take their breath away  … Close the final page of the book with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night.  Be quiet.  Don’t talk the experience to death.  Shut up and let those kids think and feel.  Teach your children to be moved.”

Truth be told, Morgan does all of the reading. She points out the bunny’s bed. “She’s sleeping in her bed. Her bed is outside!” she laughs. Morgan decides when it’s time to turn the pages. She tells the stories any way she wants. Over and over again. She looks at the pictures carefully and adds to her stories every time she retells them. She knows how to handle a book. She recognizes letters on the pages, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time on those things. Morgan has real reading to do. She knows that within the pages are stories about the little rabbit’s adventures — and sometimes misadventures— and Morgan knows that the real work of reading is in joining the little bunny on her voyages… to the beach… to the moon… wherever she goes.

Morgan’s reading is a demonstration of Rosenblatt’s assertion that “the reader + the text = a poem.” And Morgan’s reading is poetry. Really! She reads to me, over and over again. She takes my breath away.

So, why am I writing about this three-year-old reader?

I want to remind you, teachers, parents, grandparents of young readers, that the real magic of reading, when it comes to young readers, is not as much about letter recognition and “sight word” recognition as it is about us, adults, recognizing that children come into the world wired for making meaning, which is the whole purpose of reading, anyway! And when you let them “read”, you get to see how they make sense of text. How they make meaning.

I want you to teach less and learn more… from your little readers. In short, I want you to “Be quiet.  Don’t talk the experience to death.  Shut up and let those kids think and feel.” Let them take your breath away ( as Morgan does mine) as they lose themselves between the pages of a book, sometimes hundreds of times.  I want you to let them read.

 

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