Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Poetry, Writing and Books

My introduction to poetry probably occurred in high school. I have to confess to not liking it, primarily because I was never quite sure of the meanings. It was frustrating to be asked to write interpretations of works that were, although beautiful, decidedly vague and difficult to pin down.

As a college student and up until parenthood, classic novels were my chocolate. If I could steal enough time, I would gladly pursue that passion again. Surely I will cry, as all moms do, when my nest is empty, but I know those advanced years will have blessings of their own, not the least of which will be curling up with a good book.

Always in love with the novel, I never gave poetry a chance after my formal education, and now I regret that. Devouring books early and continuing to do so into adulthood, will usually create a good writer. Not surprisingly, there are millions of good writers. But perhaps the best are those who have also been broad readers. Improving my writing will probably mean I must start devouring poetry, to help lose the mechanical tone inherent in my prose. At tomorrow's library visit, I'll be searching for more than just the thirty picture books we regularly lug home.

I don't know what writing will mean in my life yet. Something tells me it will be a number of years before that question can be answered, and surprisingly, I'm feeling okay with that.

Board Book Adventures

We have an insane number of children's books. Instead of buying a house with my teacher's income, I bought books. The first house didn't come until I was thirty-six and already married and pregnant, roughly ten years after my first teacher paycheck. Not that you can buy a house on a new teacher's salary, but that's another post and I digress.

Most of our children's books are Scholastic and other bookclub paperbacks, so they aren't as enticing as the beautifully illustrated hardcover library picture books, many of which are titles we don't have, since mine were mostly published before 2004.

The numerous board books are holding up well, and guess who is finally noticing them? Yes, my Emily Rose! Not long ago I stood a bunch of them on the floor up against the wall in the living room, so that the fronts were well displayed. It worked! She brings me books to read and loves that I will literally drop anything to read to her. We can get through all of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, since that's her favorite, and all of the touch-and-feel books. Other books she lets me read just three or four pages of, then she grabs them to look at on her own. I'm also noticing her sitting down and looking at books without coming to get me.

Daniel, my oldest, a new 6, was the best in terms of sitting for stories while very young. Timothy, like Emily, in the early days would mostly want to look at the books on his own. I figured Daniel would be the better reader, but have been surprised these past few weeks, because Timothy, 4 last November, has now surpassed his older brother in reading skill. There's no question that Daniel has more literary language under his belt, but I guess since Timothy has an unusually good visual memory, he can retrieve known word patterns quickly, making it unnecessary to sound out as many words.

I am doing my best to hide Timmy's skill from Daniel. We've begun reading at separate times, in their bedroom, away from any listening ears. While Daniel has already noticed that his brother is unusually smart, it hasn't occurred to him that Timmy might end up surpassing him. The difference isn't large right now, and is mostly in fluency, with Daniel taking longer to get through the same passages.

If only it could be the other way around! Timmy has an innate confidence, so he doesn't need the boost of a bright intellect. Daniel, on the other hand, often pauses to question himself before jumping into things. I lacked confidence myself until I hit about thirty; accomplishment finally helped. As my teaching skills became respected by colleagues, parents and my principal, I grew to believe in my ability to accomplish anything I wanted. Needless to say, it was a longer road than I would have liked, so it'll be a shame if Daniel ends up inheriting that unsureness!

On a more positive note, previously Daniel whined a little when I said it was reading time, but as he's gained skill, he's enjoying it more and more, and today he said, "Let's read another one!" Amen.

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