Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is the author of Thirsty and an American who lives in Shanghai, China. She is also a happy mom, a voracious reader, an engaging teacher who believes in “telling the best story you can…believing in your writing…and working your arse off,” a fierce advocate for the end of domestic violence, and a writer who spends as much time as possible in writerhead. To find out more, visit www.thirstythenovel.com or Kristin’s blog at www.kristinbairokeeffeblog.com.
Reader Mama…Reader Daughter
Earlier today, around noon, I fixed my daughter’s lunch and lifted her into the highchair. Before I could snap the straps and click the tray into place, she started chanting, “Book, Mama! Book!”
“I know, Sweetiebugs,” I said. “We’re going to read, but first we have to get you situated.”
“Book!” she hollered.
At twenty-two months old, patience is not Tully’s strong suit, but really, if she’s hollering about wanting to read, who am I to complain?
“Okay,” I said. “All set.” And I placed a plate of ham, cheese, and green beans on her tray. “What should we read first today?” I held up our three current favorites: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Family Book by Todd Parr, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
“Max! Max!” she yelled, stuffing two green beans into her mouth at the same time.
“Max it is,” I said and set The Family Book and The Very Hungry Caterpillar on the table within easy reach.
With ham hanging out of her mouth and a green bean seed stuck to her cheek, Tully curled her hands into Wild Thing claws and roared. (It is the sweetest little roar in the world.)
“Okay,” I said, “who’s the author?”
Tully leaned forward.
“Maurice…” I prompted.
“Sendak!” she hollered (which admittedly sounded a little more like Ssndk).
“Yep, you got it! Sendak.”
“And who’s the main character?” (I know, I know…always the writer.)
I turned to the first page and we began. “The night Max wore his wolf suit….”
For the next twenty or so minutes, Tully and I read our three favorites. As we did, we discussed the nuances of each book: who was chasing whom, how hungry is VERY hungry, and the pros and cons of being a messy family. Tully pointed to objects she hadn’t noticed before (like the horns on the Wild Things), and I named them. I pointed to objects she knew well, and she named them. As I read the last sentence of each book, she shouted, “The end!”
Finally—between bites—Tully requested our nursery rhyme book.
“Twinkle, Twinkle,” she said, closing and opening her hands like twinkling stars. We usually wrap up lunch this way, singing our favorites like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Little Boy Blue,” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” By the time we’d sung/read four or five rhymes (including the very wacky “Goosey, Goosey Gander”…just what the heck is that old man doing in the lady’s chamber?), Tully had cleaned her plate. Lunch was over.
“Down!” she hollered, suddenly frantic to be free.
And as I wiped her hands and mouth, I thought about what we’re both getting out of our lunchtime read-a-thons.
I get a chance to practice patience and mindfulness….being in the moment. I get to read out loud in kooky voices. I get to share one of my greatest loves—reading—with my daughter.
Well, I know she’s learning lots more than just the text of the stories we’re reading. She’s learning about sequence (beginnings, middles, and endings), authors and illustrators, relationships between pictures and text, letters, counting, and sounds. She’s also learning about emotions—Max’s loneliness, sadness when you lose someone you love, how it feels after you’ve eaten way too much. Most importantly, she is learning to love books. Like her mama.
Now…as Tully says…“The end!”