Charlotte Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Okay, my title may be a bit misleading. I’m not sure how much attention Charlotte is actually paying to this weekend’s coverage for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. But, if she were asked about it and what it meant, she’d know. Why? Because she had an extraordinary English teacher in first grade.

In celebration of MLK Day, 2012, Charlotte’s class learned about the Dr.. King, what he sought, and what he taught. Afterward, all the children wrote letters to the Dr. King. This is Charlotte’s:


“Dear Martin,

Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King for making Peace, Love and Dreams. Sharing Dreams to do that is everything I can ask for. I think your amasing [sic] work has done so well. To me your [sic] the best and your dream came true all over the world. I belive [sic] in your success for changing the bad laws for everyone. Kids, grown-ups men, women, baby girl and boys . Booooooooooo hate! Yeh love boo war yeh peace.

Yours, Charlotte”

I’m not saying her grammar was perfect. And certainly at 7 years old, she had some spelling to learn, but I was so proud of this letter. I only wish that her belief in the worldwide fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream were true. And I wish that her current belief, that if children were allowed to negotiate we’d have world peace in a jiffy, were true.

I relish that she does not yet understand hate, and is not yet aware that in some countries there are children who are forced into waging war and killing others, or forced into prostitution. She knows, but doesn’t “get,” that there are kids who don’t have enough to eat, don’t get to go to school, and struggle in ways she’ll never understand. I hope her innocence and ideals last a bit longer.

I fervently hope that together Charlotte, Philippe, and I might see Dr. King’s dream come true. And I hope that Charlotte’s newest goal, “to be responsible for world peace,” is one she can stick to!

Rest in peace, Dr. King. Your dreams and words live on in our hearts.

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.

It’s Easy as ABC

Charlotte is teaching herself to read. I have known for sometime that she recognizes certain words (stop, sport, park), particularly words we see on road signs that we pass with regularity. But, I really thought that it was all about pattern recognition and not yet reading.

On Monday, however, she set me straight. Sitting in the lobby of our gym, she asked me why a sign said, “Men” instead of “Women.” I explained the two different lockerrooms and then realized, “Charlotte is reading!” Since then she has asked me, “Mommy, why does that say xxxx?” several dozen times.

So, I went to the library and picked up some easy reader books. I got classics like One Fish, Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat (I can’t believe we don’t own those) and some new Elephant and Piggie favorites by Mo Willems, Watch Me Throw the Ball, Elephants Cannot Dance, and I Love My New Toy. We spent much of Charlotte’s post-surgical rest time reading a stack of books. Actually, Charlotte did most of the reading. She’s beginning to figure out how to sound out words. One of her favorite games is to take a word and figure out how it sounds if we change the first letter (pig, big, dig, etc.)

As if this new development stage–teaching herself to read–isn’t blowing my mind enough, on the way into camp yesterday, Charlotte turned to me and said, “Mommy, two plus two if four, right?”!

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.