Charlotte Reads: Resurrecting a Blog Feature

Some time around when Charlotte was born, I picked up a copy of Esme Codell’s book How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike thinking I would use it as a resource. You see, I was very worried my kiddo wouldn’t love books as much as I do. And, like Esme, I believe that reading is integral to every kind of succes a child might have in life–educational, social, personal, spiritual, you name it.

I proceeded to devour Jim Trelease’s classic The Read-Aloud Handbook and Jennie Nash’s moving memoir Raising a Reader: A Mother’s Tale of Desperation and Delight. They eloquently write about why it is important to read to your children; what lessons we have to learn from Oprah, Harry Potter, and the Internet (Trelease); and the anguish of having a child who doesn’t click early with books (Nash). I gobbled up the lessons, prepared to sweat it out if Charlotte was a late reader, to be patient if she didn’t read at grade level until age 8 or so.

I needn’t have worried. On her second birthday, Charlotte picked up the sippy cup, looked at it and said “B,” pointing to the letter b on the Gerber cup. She quickly learned her alphabet (listen to her read it here) and by the middle of pre-school was reading 3-letter words. By the middle of kindergarden, she was reading ahead of grade level in English and her teachers surprised me with an account of her reading 3- to 5- letter words in French. I didn’t blog about it much because I didn’t want to sound like a braggart. We were, however, contiunally amazed and constantly asking her teachers how to keep her challenged.

Looking back, I see that my blog notes that she mostly only sat still to read. I started a new feature called “Charlotte Reads” and posted a few videos. Here’s one from November 2007. I wrote often about her favorite books. Again from November, 2007, #4 on the list of things I loved about age 2:

4. Love of books. She could read all day long. Today’s favorites
are Charlotte Doyle’s TheBouncing, Dancing, Galloping ABCs; K. C. Olson’s Construction Countdown; and Jon J Muth’s Stone

And, I posted about some of our favorite characters like Iggy Peck, Architect (follow this link to hear Charlotte read Andrea Beaty’s now-classic book) and Skippyjon Jones.

I still know those books by heart because I read them all dozens of time. Famously, we read Iggy Peck, Architect every night for more than eight months.

Why the trip down memory lane? Because tonight Charlotte read aloud to me, a chapter of My Father’s Dragon, a children’s classic by Ruth Stiles Gannett that I’ve never read. Her homework was to read a chapter. I asked if she’d like to read it aloud since that is what she does in her enrichment class. She jumped at the chance. I was enthralled by her expression, her fluency, and her confidence as she sounded out hard words.

I have read to Charlotte every day since I was by her side at Children’s Memorial Hospital. I may have sounded crazy reading The New York Times and Fortune magazine to my infant, but read I did. Watching her learn to read was amazing. Seeing her grow into a joy of reading that led to her lying on the couch yesterday to read Ramona the Brave for an hour is awe-inspiring. And, the first time she sat on the beach and read last summer made me hopeful for quiet, restful beach vacations!

Charlotte and I (and you, dear reader) are so fortunate to be literate. To be able to read these words. Join us on March 7 as we celebrate World Read Aloud Day, bringing attention to global literacy challenges that leave 793 million functionally illiterate.

I’ll be blogging here, and at Culture Bean, from now until then about read aloud adventures I’ve shared with Charlotte, my mother, and others. Feel free to chime in with your own stories–about a book that was meaningful to you, a favorite read aloud you heard as a child or read to your own child, or sound off about literacy and/or illiteracy.

And to think, I was selfishly claiming those 20 minutes each night to get a free cuddle and revisit my favorite books! How delightful that so much more grew out of it.

Charlotte Reads: Bouncing, Dancing, Galloping ABC

Click on the title of this post to hear Charlotte reading one of our favorite ABC books.

We originally picked up The Bouncing Dancing Galloping ABC at the library for one reason–the author’s name is Charlotte Doyle. For a long time, Charlotte referred to it as the Charlotte book.

Now she knows it by heart. Occasionally during the day she’ll refer to it by acting it out. For instance: Charlotte will spin, get dizzy, and fall down, declaring, “Charlotte dropped herself.” Why? Because “D is for dancing and dizzy and drop,” of course.

I like this book for its original take on the alphabet. This alphabet is packed with action, with all the letters illustrated by verbs. The rhyme is light-handed, but catchy enough to remember. We can recite this alphabet all day long. (And, yeah, we do!). Julia Gorton’s illustrations are colorful, playful, and simply full.

This book truly celebrates the alphabet. What a great way to start reading!

Charlotte Reads: Iggy Peck, Architect

(Click on the title of this entry to hear Charlotte reading Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by David Roberts.)

Of course Charlotte reads Iggy Peck, Architect. She’s been reading Iggy obsessively since he first took her attention away from Elmo in October. If you know Charlotte, you know that distracting her from an Elmo book is pretty big.

Mom loves Iggy. I’ve given at least 4 gift copies. I am one of the reasons that our local Barnes & Noble can’t keep it in the store; I hand it to every person I see when I’m shopping!

Charlotte must love Iggy, too. She can repeat the entire book from memory, with no prompting, and often does so randomly (like in the grocery store). She has carried it in the stroller and had me read it to her while we walk (as Mo Willem’s Pigeon would say, “True story.”). It’s a good thing that I, too, know the book by heart or we might have walked into a brick wall.

Why do we love Iggy? Well, to start with, he is bright, creative, and fun without being mischievous. Andrea Beaty’s rhymes sing and inspire; her word choices encourage language play and vocabulary building; and her story begs the reader to pick up an encyclopedia and look up some nifty buildings. David Robert’s illustrations are urban and hip. He gives just enough detail (check out the “things that one should not mention” on the page where Iggy becomes a hero) or none at all. When Iggy is crushed by his second grade teacher’s edict against building, the double-page spread shows nothing but a dejected Iggy at his desk, his pencil on the floor. A whole lot of white space = Sheer Brilliance.

We first met Iggy in mid-October and it was love at first read, so we were not surprised to read that Time Magazine had named Iggy Peck, Architect one of its Top 10 Children’s Books for 2007. Charlotte and I are proud to say, “Yeah, we knew that.”

Charlotte Reads: Announcing a New Blog Feature

Charlotte’s medical updates are fewer and further (farther?) between, so I’ve decided to add a regular feature to the blog: Charlotte Reads. I’ve thought about making a separate blog, but Philippe suggested I keep it here.

Charlotte Reads will be just that–Charlotte reading her favorite books with me, her dad, Karley, or whoever is there when I turn the videocamera or Zoom H2 on. The mission: To share the books that Charlotte is enjoying (hmm…obsessing over?) at the moment. It grows out of my not wanting to compete with the fabulous kidslit bloggers out there and not wanting to write more book reviews and not wanting to have a kidslit blog of my own. Charlotte’s interaction with the book will serve as its own sort of “review.”
And in most cases she will not be reading The Cinema of Latin America, although it is one of her current faves.