Saturday, April 07, 2007

May I Brag About my Kids Again?

I really think my kids are the greatest kids everywhere. Hopefully every mother thinks this, though, so I don't think I'm abnormal.

But, to brag: I've been trying to get Caleb to read novels for a year. I've known he was capable of reading the language, but it was too scary for him, and he didn't have the sustained attention to really devour them. Anyway, I finally gave up trying, until yesterday. I sat on my bed and saw the shelf full of novels I'd picked out for Caleb right there and mentioned to him that there were a bunch of books he would like to read.

He surprised me by saying, "Like what?" instead of "I'll never read those."

So I pulled out "The Wizard of Oz," the original L. Frank Baum version. "Like this," I said, handing him the book. "We've read it before and you liked it." (Often the kids won't touch anything they haven't experienced before, including movies and foods).

"Okay," he said. He took the book and curled up on Tim's pillow under the blankets and began to read.

And he read and read and read and read and read. And, despite everything else we've done in the last 2 days, he finished the entire novel. Devoured it. And can answer comprehension questions, and read me sections he liked, and told me about stuff that he didn't remember from last time. He read 156 pages, not in the original printing style (so smaller print and almost no illustrations), in less than 2 days.

So now I'm thinking, "Sequels? CS Lewis? Edward Eager? What else would a kindergartner like to read?"

I didn't choose "The Wizard of Oz" randomly. It was a carefully calculated choice when he said, "Like what?" Last time we read it, I realized it is a "novel," but it is structured exactly like a well-told picture book. There is a great deal of repetition of scenes and dialogues, just like in a folk tale; the chapters are short and something happens in each one; the scary stuff is resolved fairly quickly but there is enough tension to keep a kid reading; the characters are easy to grasp, easy to visualize, and easy to love or hate; the language is simple, for a turn of the last century book, but beautiful to read. It's the perfect first novel.

But what's the perfect second novel?

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