I’m entering new territory with my five-year-old. He has discovered the world of Lego and I will admit I already miss our picture book days. Each night since he was 6-months-old, reading together has been part of our bedtime routine. (Before month six is a blur – mostly singing to him and middle of the night feedings). At first I only bought board books because he chewed on them as part of his “reading.” I joked that chew marks along the edges were his stamp of approval for titles. And, of course, I cannot part with the ones that hold memories of a time when he, of the delicious rolls and sweet baby smell, snuggled into my lap for book after book after book before the goodnight song and lights out.
We then reached a point where we could choose library books without fear of them ending up in his mouth. I laugh thinking back to him being just two-years-old when walking into the public library and announcing to the librarian he wanted books about chickens and goats. She led him over to the informational books and he happily chose his day’s selection. We would leave with a mixture of stories and informational text. I guess he always did know what he wanted.
Finding a book at Biomes and settling down on the floor to “read” it – Age 3
Between ages three and four, we began having conversations on the ride to school about the elements of story: bad guys, good guys, a problem, and a solution. He began looking at life through that lens. We devoured any version of the fairy tales we could get our hands on. He enjoyed re-telling the stories. A good friend commented that he was a guy who loved a good story. His preschool teacher relayed at the parent-teacher conference that he really enjoyed stories.
The books were getting longer and as much as I love our reading routine, this tired mom needed parameters. Our rule became three books before bed, one book before a nap on weekends. I began posting our daily book choices with the hashtag #bedtimebookaday when a friend asked for book suggestions.
We visit the library once or twice a week. I place a lot of holds that we pick up at the circulation desk, but there is also a lot of teamwork as he finds books in the children’s room to add to our bag. His memory is much better than mine so sometimes I’ll hold up a book and ask him, “Have we read this one before?” and he can give me a definitive yes or no. Some days he gets immersed in playing with other kids and I’m the sole book chooser. (For a snapshot of a library visit at age four read this post).
This week I ended my chat with the librarian and looked over to find my son in a corner chair with a pile of Lego books on his lap. He was looking at the pictures and creating his own story aloud to himself. I’m not proud to admit that my heart kind of sunk thinking of the commercialism of the book titles. But another, larger part of me was incredibly proud and awed to see this new stage in his reading development – his independent choices and overwhelming need to stop and tell the story to himself. Although it was getting late and I was thinking of making dinner and lunches for tomorrow, I didn’t interrupt. I let him finish his story telling and asked if he wanted to bring some of the books home. He excitedly added all six titles to our bag.
The next morning he asked to borrow my book light and I found him in our dark living room “reading” his Lego book on the couch. There is no question – he is officially captivated. That night he asked to turn off his show so I could read him a Lego book on the couch (we normally read in his bed and he loves his t.v. time). I started to read to him and quickly realized I had misjudged this book by the cover. Typically the size and shape of this type of book is an early reader that will take a little bit longer than a picture book to read aloud. Not the case with this book. It reads like a chapter book and is really long. I got through the introductions of characters (pages and pages of intros) before gently suggesting we read more at bedtime.
The Lego book has good guys and bad guys – the story elements he craves. I am bored beyond words reading it aloud (although I’ll never show it in my inflection) but he is fascinated. In fact, tonight I was pretty tired and looking to finish so I thought I could pull a fast one. I read it as if it was the end of the story but really ended without reading the last of three stories within the book. He asked, “I wonder why we never learned more about the ravens?” Huh, so he really was listening and understanding this mind-numbing tale. I’m now riddled with guilt and will finish the story with him tomorrow.
Do I look forward to a life of Lego for the foreseeable future? Not particularly. But I will honor his reading choices because they matter to him. And I want him to continue on the path I’ve worked so hard to build. Stories matter to him. He sees the value in books. When he asks me a question I don’t know an answer to, he says, “Maybe we can order a book from the library so we can learn, Mom.” So, yes, I will keep reading the Lego books and anything else he chooses. And I will watch my child blossom into the reader I am so proud to watch him become.