“Daddy, you don’t have a very good brain!” my daughter reprimanded me this evening during bedtime.
I had skipped a sentence while reading her bedtime story, and she had caught me red handed.
She went on to explain to me that I missed some words, and I should have said”‘I think it is time for you to go to school now’, said Mother.”
Sure enough, that’s what it said. I stared at her, flabbergasted.
The last step in our bedtime routine is that each kid gets to pick a story for me to read to them. Usually, this passes without incident, but there is occasionally a negotiation when one of the kids picks a story that is just too long for an expedient bedtime.
At the ages of almost three and five, my kids still like to hear some stories over and over, so reading a long story night after night can get very tedious. Even really well written longer stories like Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney can start to drag if we don’t mix it up a bit.
But the real bane of my existence is the Frances book series by Russell and Lillian Hoban, particularly Bread and Jam for Frances. It tells the story of a badger named Frances who refuses to eat anything but bread and jam and her parents’ struggle to get her to try new things.
Now, as the parent of some very picky eaters I can relate. But it’s so…damned…long… and my daughter Ayelet absolutely loves it.
This isn’t one of those picture books with a few sentences per page. It has whole pages with nothing but text interspersed with occasional pictures. There are two whole pages devoted to a detailed accounting of how Frances’ friend Albert eats a five course lunch. I kid you not.
I swear I would have no trouble telling this story in 1/3 the space. And to be truthful, I sometimes do.
On the nights that I cannot manage to steer Ayelet away from it, I have taken to playing a bit of “editor”. There is a lot of needless dialog, and since she can’t read yet, she doesn’t really notice if I skip a sentence here and there as long as it’s not key to the story. And there are a lot of these sentences.
So, when I agreed to read Bread And Jam again tonight, I was unprepared for what happened next. She immediately started making corrections. I would skip a line and she would immediately point out my mistake and tell me what I should have said.
At times, Ayelet’s memory amazes me. She can rattle off details about a house we visited on a trip over a year and a half ago, and she could recognize every letter of the alphabet before the age of two. I had always assumed she would be an early reader, but she never showed much interest in putting the letters together. She has learned several sight words at school, but she is nowhere near advanced enough to be reading this book with me.
My best guess at this point is that someone read the book with her earlier in the day and so it was fresh in her very good memory.
If not, an absent minded father like me is going to find himself in a lot more trouble as she gets older.