The other night, after finishing his school readers, 6-year-old Louis picked up Oliver Jeffers’ Incredible Book Eating Boy and we folded ourselves into his single bed, beneath the thick sandwich of blankets.
“This is my favourite.” I said.
“It’s my favourite too,” he agreed.
I opened the cover, turned the title page but before I could begin, Louis started to read it to me.
Louis read through the first page. Then the next. And the next. I hung back, waiting for the moment when he would stumble and get stuck and lose his cool. But he didn’t, he just kept going. He read the whole book, one bite at a time, right up to the bite mark on the back cover, which both of my big boys find fascinating.
(Nicely done Jeffers, nicely done.)
What’s happened in the past 6 months of school is that Louis has learned to read. Ridiculous, I know. We’ve taken a perfectly wild and rambunctious young male, taught him the alphabet, letter sounds and 200 of the most common words in the English language, and he’s packed them into his tool kit and now the boy can read. He can climb onto his toy box and choose pretty much any picture book on his shelves and read it to himself.
Not because he’s clever – although he is – and not because I’m bragging. The only thing Mr Karen and I have done for this boy is give him a broad selection of books to read, and read to him every day. All those stories slipped in before nap time and bedtime, in the doctor’s waiting room, at Nan’s house, they’ve all piled up high enough that he can now climb on top of that word heap and reach for the stories himself, even where some words may seem slippery and unfamiliar.
It’s so simple really. Feed your kids books for breakfast, and you will feed their curious appetites. The worst that can happen is a case of mild indigestion.
And I just have to share this anecdote from Maurice Sendak about another boy with a big appetite:
What was the last book you read that made you want to eat it?