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Chapter and Verse

About a month ago we returned from a trip
to the library to discover we’d picked up a chapter book by
mistake; Maddie always grabs great piles of books and I try to sift
them down to something manageable, but somehow this one had escaped
me. Up to this point we’d brought home board books, picture
books, and easy reader books only, as I’d been concerned
Maddie wasn’t ready for a book without pages and pages of

Silly Mommy.

Madeleine persuaded Gamma to read a bit of
the chapter book one night for bed, and ever since then she’s
been hooked. She and Gamma snuggle together and read a couple
“chapters” (read: a couple of pages, finding a logical
pause point) at every nap or nighttime, and Maddie looks forward to
these points throughout the day. The books fire her imagination in
a way picture books never did, and she spends the day speculating
on what will happen next.

I think for Maddie it’s like having her very own soap opera
or weekly serial read aloud to her, and she paints these scenes in
her head that no artist could adequately portray. When Maddie reads
a picture book, she pores over each picture like a treasure map,
mining for clues as to how the world works. “What’s
that person holding? Why? What is he doing? What kind of flower is
that? Where is that girl standing?” Maddie enjoys
“reading” picture books to herself and puzzling the
story out through the painted scenes.

With chapter books, though, Maddie lies in the dim room, staring at
the ceiling or the words dancing across the page, and paints the
pictures in her head. When I come in to snuggle her after lights
are out, she’ll often fill me in on what’s happened
that day in the book, talking excitedly about dragons or mice or
daring escapades, waving her arms around wildly as she describes
the adventures. I’ve long known she loved picture books, but
this seals it – my girl’s going to be hooked on reading
forever. I recognize that gleam in the eye, that ability to be
transported instantly to a castle or mouse-hole.

I’m surprised she tolerates the drawing-less books, but
I’m thrilled, since it opens up a whole new level of books I
can finally share with her. I’ve already picked up Betsy
and Tacy
from the library, one of the first chapter books I
ever remember reading and one I’ve been dying to share with
my girls since I first became pregnant. And of course, I’ve
got the whole Narnia collection – I can’t wait to see
her eyes light up as she journeys through Narnia and meets Aslan
and Lucy.

Maddie still returns to her favorite picture books by herself, but
those chapter books rest patiently next to her reading chair,
awaiting her next visit. And from what I can see, there’s no
end in sight.


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