Thursday evening I excavate M’s backpack and pull out two Magic Tree House books which she has chosen to bring home from the school library.
We’ve had week after week after week after week of educational nonfiction books about sea creatures. It’s entirely karmically appropriate given my own childhood reading preferences that I am now forced to spend hours reading aloud to my child about the digestive habits of sea cucumbers (in my professional zoological opinion, sea cucumbers are gross) and the locomotion methods used by brittle stars. But after months of contemplating the many uses and flavours of plankton I’m all OK, OK, I REPENT! PLEASE BRING ME SOMETHING WITH A PLOT!
I check out the Magic Tree House books. Nice — they look good, mostly fairly simple words with the odd challenging word (“sympathetically” for example) tossed in for interest and — oh thank you thank you — an actual plot.
Me: “Hey, these look great. Tell you what. I’ll read one to you and you’ll read one to me.” We have two weeks before they’re due and they’re pretty short books so I figure even if we crawl through them we stand a decent chance of finishing.
M: “I CAN’T READ CHAPTER BOOKS. THEY’RE TOO HARD.”
Me: “Nonsense. They have the very same words in them as all your other books and you read those just fine. We’ll give it a try. I’ll help you if you get stuck and if it gets too frustrating we’ll stop. The rule in your class is ‘try your best,’ right?”
After much fussing and resistance — TOO HARD! CAN’T! WON’T! SHAN’T! TOO HARD! — she picks the one about pirates. She climbs into the Reading Seat (a special recliner-cushion with armrests that lives on the foot of her bed and is only sat in by The Reader) and off we go. I mentally hold my breath.
But not for long. Four effortless pages and lots of positive reinforcement later I stop her only because it’s getting late and I don’t want her to get so tired she starts to fade. Plus it only seems fair that I do some reading too after she’s done all that great work. So I read a bit of the other book, one about an earthquake, and tuck her in for the night.
7am Friday, my alarm goes off. I curse at it as usual and then there’s this little voice from the other room:
“Mommy, are you talking in your sleep?”
“No, sweetie, I’m awake. Sort of. Not very. I was just shouting at the mean alarm clock for waking me up.”
…”Can I come do some more reading for you?”