Monday, August 06, 2007

Make Mine Skim

Since I became Ann's mother four years ago, a significant part of my life is spent doing a lot more TALKING than I ever did before. I was never the biggest blabbermouth. Except for those moments of redheaded temper, I am usually able to weigh my words fairly carefully.

As someone who majored in linguistics in college, this would seem to be a dream come true, since witnessing my own children's language development is the best real-life playing field I could ever have imagined for seeing the applications of my studies. In reality, though, not always.

With Ann and Andy, there are chunks of time when I hear so much chattering going on that I sometimes feel like challenging them to a silence contest (anyone else remember those?). And then I'm taken aback to realize that a good deal of the talking is coming from ME! Constantly describing, encouraging, suggesting, explaining, answering, reading, narrating all fall within my job description.

One of the major features of our home is that there are always many books available to the kids. I've written before that RaggedyDad and I share the rude trait of often reading at the table. The kids aren't quite up to that, but they do feel very comfortable pulling out a book, doing their thing with it, or asking for it to be read. Lots of my books are the ones I kept in my classroom when I taught English as a second language. The library was also a major part of my life growing up, and I take the kids there fairly often.

On days when I feel like all I've done is talk, I sometimes try to make my read-alouds more of a skimming, or a "let's describe what we see on each page," or, lately, "Why don't you read this to me, Ann?" It is amazing to hear the very close narration after months of her hearing the same story. With Ann, skimming a book is not covert. With Andy, there is a little guilt, since he doesn't always realize it's happening.

There are times when I feel like I'm on autopilot with the things I say to my kids. I've explained the same thing so many times! I've read that story about 43 times this morning! It's tempting to tune out a little bit of myself, and of them. When I feel like that's happening, I know I have to focus on consciously responding and talking in the moment. Do I always? That's another story.

As Ann gets older, I find that she's become far more of a mental challenge than a physical one, and it spurs me to really think about what we're saying to each other. And although a lot of Andy time is spent keeping him safe and helping to direct his actions, he does mimic all that I say, from content to tone to cadence. Which means being more aware with him, too. There's nothing more eye-opening than seeing our negative traits, including negative speaking style, reflected back to us in our kids. It's pretty humbling.

Another story, kids? I'd love to, but how about if we make this one skim?


Chana said...

This is a beautiful idea. Actually, in fifth grade I took Enrichment in English (because I was bored in class; enrichment is extra learning.) I vividly remember being given a book that was entirely made of pictures and being told to tell the teacher a story. I had to connect the pictures in my mind, without words, in order to tell the story.

I remember being very anxious to tell the "right" story; I was worried that there was a proper way to connect the pictures. Of course there wasn't; she just wanted to see whether I could connect events in a way that flowed. I understood that a little later on.

I used to do this with my little brothers; I'd ask them to tell me stories based off the pictures we saw (not the text.) They were always very inventive and creative.

Your "skimming" may be helping your kids' imaginations grow even more than reading to them. :-)

Ariella said...

I often abridged while reading longer works. But now that my youngest reads herself, I do miss reading to her. It was something I liked doing much like I enjoyed taking babies on walks in their strollers.