Mrs. Cutter and I have made a point to frequently read to the Cutlet. I was often read to as a child, and it helped me learn to read at an early age. In turn, this gave me a tremendous advantage when I started school. It also allowed me to mess with my non-literate friends, by purposely misreading things to them.
Yeah, even at an early age I liked to mess with people’s heads.
So far, our efforts with the Cutlet have paid off; Perhaps too well.
The Cutlet has grown to love books. While she has a large collection of toys, she largely passes them up in favor of her books. Unfortunately, despite her excellent knowledge of the alphabet song, the Cutlet is currently unable to read books on her own. So it is up to Mrs. Cutter and me to read them to her.
On the surface, this seems like a good thing. The Cutlet further develops her literary skills, and she gets to spend some quality time with her parents. But there are some definite drawbacks.
Here’s the scenario: The Cutlet ambles over to her bookshelf to pick out a book. She’ll grab one, hand it to us, (this is occasionally painful, as she’ll sometimes swing the book into our faces) and then plop herself down in our lap. If we do not immediately begin reading, she’ll sometimes encourage us with a command of “Read!”
The act of reading has become more difficult lately due to the Cutlet’s increasing inquisitiveness. We used to read her a book and have her either quietly absorb it, or subtly interact. “That’s a doggy. What sound does a doggy make? Woof!”
But now, she is fully engrossed in the experience, and wants more information. She will often point to the various characters illustrated on the pages, and ask “Whossat?” or “Whassat?” I’m not sure if she doesn’t understand our answer, or it just doesn’t sink in, because she’ll repeat the question several times.
“That’s a froggy.”
“That’s a froggy.”
“Still a froggy.”
“It’s a frog! It’s still a frog! It will always be a frog!”
Once we make it through the story, we can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Sure, the book might only have a few pages in it, and each page might only have a few lines of text on it, but it can still be a difficult process. In addition to the frequent interruptions by the Cutlet – not only does she ask questions, but sometimes she likes to turn back pages or simply stare at a given page for a while – but the books themselves can be difficult to read.
Yes, I know, these are children’s books. But that doesn’t mean that they’re simple to read. Some of the books have a rhyming cadence that can be kind of difficult to pick up on. And many children’s authors like to use alliteration which can be a real pain. “Silly Sammy Slick sipped six sodas and got sick, sick, sick.” Yeah, that takes concentration levels which just aren’t always available.
I also try to do different voices for all of the characters. This becomes more difficult when you have several different speaking roles in a given story. I’ve found I can do a pretty good Elmo, Ernie, and Big Bird. But for some reason, I have a lot of trouble with the Winnie the Pooh characters, so I try to avoid reading that one.
Sadly, our sense of accomplishment ends quickly. Upon completion, the Cutlet does not merely say, “That was fun. I’ll just play quietly for a while.” No, she usually says the word which is rapidly becoming one of my least favorites: Again.
Apparently, one reading was not enough. The Cutlet enjoyed the recital so much that she wants to hear it again. So we repeat the process. And sometimes, even that isn’t enough. “Again!”
If both Mrs. Cutter and I are home, we’ll often try to alternate readings. “You know who would love to read that story? Mommy!” But if we’re flying solo, then we often have to handle the multiple readings ourselves.
We try to make the repeated readings less painful by steering her towards the books which we enjoy more, or the ones which we haven’t read very much lately. But as she develops a personality, it comes with the drawback of having preferences of her own. We can’t simply say “Let’s read this one!” If the Cutlet does not want to hear that particular story at that time, she will push it away and say “No!” and then sometimes counter with a different suggestion.
To help combat book fatigue, Mrs. Cutter and I have been buying a lot of new books lately. On Saturday, I was out at Buy Buy Baby and saw the book Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs by Sandra Boynton. Boynton’s books are among the more pleasant reads, and since the Cutlet has shown an interest in dinosaurs lately, I figured this would be a good one to try.
Purchasing a new book allowed me to determine how many consecutive times I could read a new book it took before I became sick of it. And much like the number of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, the answer is three. It doesn’t matter how good a children’s book is. After reading it three times in a row, it becomes tiresome.
There is one book in particular that Mrs. Cutter and I can not stand: Seven Little Rabbits by John Becker. The story follows a group of seven rabbits who are paying a visit to their friend Toad. Except one by one, the rabbits get tired, so the group has to turn around and rest up in a mole’s hole.
Basically, it’s two pages of the same lyrics over and over again, repeated seven times. Supposedly, it is great for helping children fall asleep. I haven’t seen evidence of that, but it is useful for driving parents insane.
We have done our best to hide this book. We stashed it underneath her crib, and if the Cutlet asks for “bunnies” we look for another book featuring rabbits, and act like we have no idea what she’s talking about.
Unfortunately, last week, our cleaning ladies found it under the crib and put it on the bookshelf. It took the Cutlet about ten seconds to locate it and hand it to us.
There are some books which we enjoy reading more than others (of course these are not exempt from the three reading rule either):
Anything by Sandra Boynton. They feature animals and easy rhymes and are short enough that they don’t overstay their welcome.
Jasper the Cat by Janet Allison Brown – This book became considerably more fun once I determined that the cat should speak with a foppish British accent.
Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman – Mrs. Cutter doesn’t like this one as much because she feels one dog is unnecessarily rude.
Puss in Boots by Kathryn Jackson – This is the classic tale, not the movie story. That doesn’t stop me from breaking out a mean Antonio Banderas impression though.
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney – The Llama books are fun, even though the little llama can be a real drama queen.
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now by Dr. Seuss – I really only enjoy this because of the one part where they mention a “Crunk-car” and I ask the Cutlet if “she’s getting crunk in here” and have her respond with a Lil’ Jon style “whhhattt?” Yes, it’s the little things.
Hopefully all this reading pays off and the Cutlet will develop into a brilliant scholar who gets a full scholarship to the Ivy League college of her choice.
If not, (although really, I’ll probably do this either way) when I’m old and senile, and the Cutlet has to come visit me in a nursing home, I’m going to make sure she reads to me. And once she’s done a story, I’ll make sure to say that magic word: Again!