Molding a reader, one story after another

By LISA BRITTON, Baker City Herald January 15, 2009 02:28 pm

“In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of — the cow jumping over the moon...”

I’ll spare you the entire story of the classic “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown — but just know that I can recite it, word for word, from memory.

We received this book as a gift upon the birth of our daughter, Olivia. She didn’t really take an interest in it until she was about 14 months, and ever since we have read it before naptime and bedtime. (She’s now 19 months old and says “Moon! Moon!” when it’s time for bed).

It’s a wonderful book, and I haven’t yet felt the need to hide it or throw it away (by the number of books in our house, it’s apparent that we never throw books away).

That, however, is not the case with some other stories. One in particular is “Little Quack’s New Friend.”

This is a fine book about five ducklings who at first shun a little green frog who wants to play. Little Quack is the one to welcome him, followed by his siblings when they see the fun games instigated by the frog, named Little Ribbit.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read that book to Olivia, but I finally slipped it under a hardcover coffee table book about Oregon’s national forests — out of sight, out of mind.

Unfortunately, she moved the hardcover and saw a sliver of the “Little Quack” cover.

Her eyes immediately lit up and she hollered “Duck! Duck!”

With a sigh, I read the book. And read it again and again.

Then I hid it under a coffee table where Olivia’s access is blocked by pillows. We’ll see how long this trick lasts — I hope until she’s 10.

I must admit we created this reading monster. At home on maternity leave I read to my infant, and she especially liked rhyming poems.

We keep all her books on shelves at her level so she can look at them at any time. My husband and I are both big readers, so we want to foster a love of the written word.

Seems like it worked.

My mom once told me she got rid of a kids book and I couldn’t believe it — but now I understand. (That particular book lasted through three children — I bet my mom couldn’t even guess how many times she read it.)

I will never discourage Olivia of reading, but I have now swapped out some of her books for the ones we kept in the car.

And soon we can go to the library to find a whole new world of books — we go there now, but Olivia’s participation is to run down the aisles of the children’s section. This “keep away” game just started recently — a developmental stage, I’m sure.

Needless to say, her attention span doesn’t warrant browsing through the library collection. And the bookstore? She loves it, but we carry her because all those colorful books would be too tempting to pull from the shelves. (She regularly rearranges our books at home, especially when she’s tired.)

We are raising a reader, and that makes me so happy. But even better are the cuddles we share when she plops in my lap and is still for a few minutes — a rarity in her stage as a busy, investigating toddler.

Those snuggles are worth a thousand readings of “Little Quack.”

Lisa Britton is a reporter for the Baker City Herald.