I had to learn how to “read” children’s books.
Let me explain. My mother says I read independently since I was four. I have an early (and very blurry) memory of kindergarten teachers asking me to read to other kids, and how much I hated it, because it was boring as hell, because reading out loud is not nearly as fast as reading to yourself.
Since then, I have not really been exposed to babies. My brother and I are four years apart, so when he was a baby, I was too young to remember much. I never babysat. I did not have older siblings who had kids before I did. I did not study early childhood education (although I taught courses in this program). And I did not really spend much time with friends’ children.
And then, I had a baby.
My family doctor suggested that we could start reading to her as early as four months. Some fellow mamas boasted reading to their children from birth. I could not bring myself to read to a swaddled potato, who obviously preferred my boobs to the beauty of the written word.
It is only now that the kid is heading towards six months, she is starting to express interest in picture books. And by express interest, I mean, she wants to eat them. She also wants to eat her toes, my toes, and everything else she can get her hands on. But I digress…
Bedtime reading is now a thing. And I had to learn how to read children’s books.
Exhibit A (as in – see picture):
“Good Night, Gorilla”, which I understand to be a popular children’s book. [Note that my understanding of popular culture in North America dates to 1998, but not before – think Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Third Rock From The Sun, but NOT Seinfeld or Beverly Hills 90210].
Here’s the ENTIRE text of the book:
“Good night, Gorilla.” “Good night, Elephant.” “Good night, Lion.” “Good night, Hyena.” “Good night, Giraffe.” “Good night, Armadillo.” “Good night, dear.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night.” “Good night, zoo.” “Good night, dear.” “Good night.” “Good night, Gorilla.” “Zzzz.”
Other book-loving adults who also have not been exposed to the curious phenomenon that is children’s literature may share my puzzlement here. I would like to repeat → That’s the text of the ENTIRE book.
The first time I read this to the baby, I blew through it in a minute, turned the last page, and looked at Italian, who was watching me from the doorway of the nursery with an amused expression on his face.
“I don’t get it”, I said.
Italian (very patiently) explained that with children’s books, you have to look at each page, and see what the pictures show to follow the plot of the story.
In the case of this particular book, the zookeeper closes down the zoo on this rounds, while a mischievous Gorilla follows him around and lets all the animals out of their cages, who then follow the zookeeper home.
Ok. I get it now.
The impact of the book was lost entirely on me, because I was reading the children’s book the same way I would read a book for adults, where the text alone would hold its own, and the images were included to support the text. [I imagine things might have been more self-explanatory if I was into comics or graphic novels?]
It’s still super foreign to “read” a book page which DOES NOT HAVE WORDS on it. But I am learning. ????
Although I still maintain that the storyline of The Count Of Monte Cristo is way more engaging than “Good Night, Gorilla”. That one would make for a loooong bedtime routine though.