Reading With Charlie

Like many three year old kids, Charlie loves Dr. Seuss books.  When he is by himself, he will very likely pick up Oh Say Can You Say or One Fish, Two Fish and pretty soon I will hear him “reading” the books to himself, giggling as if he was being tickled.

The weird thing is that Charlie does not bring me Dr. Seuss books.  Charlie brings me everything else- books by Eric Carle, Disney books, pop-up books, even books in German or Japanese or French given to us by various friends who speak different languages.  I “read” those to him without a problem.  Instead, Charlie brings Dr. Seuss books to Mike who loves to read Dr. Seuss books.  Mike savors and relishes all the Dr. Seuss word plays and puns, hits all the consonants, rolls with all the vowels.  Mike actually reads the books while Charlie, enjoying the aural silliness, pays very close attention.

I think that because he now differentiates between the languages he speaks with me and Mike, Charlie probably understands that Dr. Seuss books are not the books that I can “read.”  Charlie must subconsciously know the unfortunate truth:  I dislike most Dr. Seuss books.  There’s no mystery to my dislike as it’s actually very simple:  Dr. Seuss books are very dependent on the (spoken) English words, making them impossible and foolish to translate.  Phrases like “Hop on Pop” pose a problem:  how would I translate that in Bisaya?  “Ambak kang Papa,” I would insist on translating, much to Charlie’s confusion.  “Stop, You must not hop on Pop” becomes “Undang, ayaw pag ambak kang Papa.”  It is ridiculous, I know, but I do it, anyway, because I only read (and speak) to Charlie in Bisaya.

Aside from the translation impossibility, Dr. Seuss books sometimes have no story to tell.  One Fish, Two Fish.  Hop on Pop.  What are these books about?  I don’t really know their plots.  I realize now that I don’t actually read books to Charlie.  I tell him stories, in Bisaya, using books in English or other languages because there are no books in Bisaya (or maybe there are but I don’t have them).  I’d like to think that aside from the fact that I am teaching him how to speak Bisaya while we are “reading,” I’m also helping him develop a critical skill- the skill of storytelling, a skill that is separate from reading.  As I go through the act of reading- opening the book, turning the pages, – I’m also telling him a story, which sometimes has very little to do with the printed words but lots to do with the drawings/graphics.

This brings me to an even greater realization.  When we read, Charlie and I start with the cover and I point out every single illustration- we name them, give a background story, etc.  We don’t turn to the next page until we have exhausted every single detail.  I marvel at this and realize that all this is ironic because I, myself, am not a visually oriented reader.  When I read graphic novels or comic books, I immediately read the printed words in the bubble, oftentimes neglecting to look and appreciate all the details in the pictures.  When I read with Charlie, I have to actively retrain myself to notice the actual image on the pages, to slow down, look, pore over details, appreciate, and enjoy all the book has to offer.  The way I read with Charlie is so much different from how I have been reading all my life!

I thought I had reading down but I guess not.  But I’m working on it, one picture at a time, with Charlie’s help.  And he doesn’t even know it.

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