I’m so glad this new website is up and running in time for the release of Reading Picture Books with Children on 11/3, but I admit I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use this platform–and especially this blog. The first three posts were attempts at just getting started and I plan on returning to them to add more content.
I hope to use this space to try out new ideas for essays, to document reading experiences with my children, and to post news about my own reading and writing. I also want to create a forum where readers can share their own experiences using the Whole Book Approach, and I’m sure there will be other ways that I use this space as I get more comfortable with it and as I learn from readers about what they’d like to see here.
To round out this post tonight, I want to offer a little timeline about my baby Jesse’s reading life.
When he was just a couple of weeks old we started reading board books with him. We delighted when his eyes fixated on the high contrast illustrations in Tana Hoban’s BLACK ON WHITE and WHITE ON BLACK and in Charles Shaw’s IT LOOKED LIKE SPILT MILK. The texts we began introducing included a lot of nursery rhymes and songs in board book form–Rosemary Wells’ TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR and OLD MACDONALD were two that got a lot of reads.
Another Rosemary Wells board book was the one at the center of a profound moment in his early reading life: When Jesse was 6 months old, we were reading MAX’S RIDE, and in one scene Max goes sailing up over a clothesline after bouncing out of his stroller. Jesse laughed as we turned the page and he saw this image. I don’t think he really *got* what was happening in the story, but I do think that the change in the image from one spread to the next tickled him somehow. This marked the first time he ever obviously responded to a picture with a vocalization and a degree of engagement that carried a measure of delight.
Then last week, at 7-months-old, Jesse and I were reading the board book version of Phyllis Root and Christopher Denise’s OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY. I love this picture book (I think it’s sadly out of print–go find it anyway!), and I miss the larger trim size and endpapers in the board book edition. But, the board book does allow baby Jesse to turn the pages, and he delighted in doing so as he sat in my lap. In a series of three page turns, Oliver (a bear cub) roars louder and Louder and LOUDER, and as I roared, J looked at me, and then he looked at the picture of the bear, and then *he* roared.
He’s beginning to read pictures.
At this early point in Jesse’s reading life I’m establishing a foundation for the sort of co-constructive reading that the Whole Book Approach values simply by exposing him to lots of different books and encouraging his engagement. I can feel a sense of calm settle over him when I pull him up into my lap and pick up a book. It’s a different…energy…than what he has when we are playing on the floor with his toys, but it’s not the same as passivity. He is thinking, and learning, and delighting in books and in shared reading, and I know that this is the basis for his eventual growth into an independent reader.