Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Dahl and boys

I have been trying and hoping for an addictive reading experience with my children since before I had any other thoughts about parenting. I was a compulsive reader as a child, utterly addicted to reading since before I could actually read.  It seemed natural to me that I would someday live out the picture of a mother reading to enraptured children.  Until I tried to do it.

I've been reading to my kids their entire existence, but their attention span for it has generally been dicey.  While we easily make it through a Mo Willems book, anything with fewer pictures or more words is apt to lose somebody along the way.  I've read a number of children's chapter books to the boys, but the only person who is engaged for the whole of the story is me.  (Charlotte's Web, all of P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins' books, all the Mrs. Piggle Wiggles, Half Magic, Young Buffalo Bill, etc.)

But just before Christmas I saw the giant boxed set of Roald Dahl books at Costco, the Phizz-Whizzing Collection, and I remembered having heard a comment about how the potty humor in the BFG was more effective at getting boys to read than anything else anyone's ever tried.  I bought the whole lot, knowing I'd have absolutely nowhere to put them (we are pretty direly out of bookshelf space at this juncture) and they were one of too many gifts under the tree Christmas morning.

It happened that a few days after Christmas one of the boys wanted to read one, and Sir O picked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to start.  2 pages in and the magic finally happened.  Every one of the boys was utterly engrossed.  At the end of each chapter they begged me to go on.  Hours slipped past us like minutes.  They would have read it all in 1 sitting if I'd let them, but it worked out to be just more than 2 sittings.  Then they immediately demanded Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator,  (You should have seen them sitting still and barely breathing through those Vernicious Knids!) which we've almost finished.

I am having so much fun with this that I can hardly stand it.  I have to hide my excitement for fear of jinxing myself.  (Because you know if Sir O realizes how much I'm enjoying this then my uncool mom-ness will taint the experience for him.) But to finally experience really reading a book with my kids feels like I'm checking something pretty major off of my bucket list.

Never mind how much my pragmatic mind resists Dahl.  I have a dozen, "but that could never happen because x(physics),y(biology),z(chemistry)" thoughts every chapter.  Then I have to reign in my natural killjoy and remind myself that it's a perfect level of literary freedom for little boys of 3,5, and 7.  They're at a perfect place to thrill at the idea of not being bound by laws of nature.  They laugh at all the joyfully naughty parts.  It's really a match made in heaven.  A perfect gateway drug.  This odd duck Dahl understood little boys like mine better, perhaps, than I do.


Camille Spence said...

Don't write these books off for your little bunny either, though. I read them all when I was younger and I loved them!! Matilda and The Twits were my favorites...except now I can't remember what twits was about. I just remember reading it over and over until the spine broke and the pages started falling out.

hairyshoefairy said...

I need to look for this the next time I'm at Costco and hope the still have it! We've already read the few we have and I've borrowed many others from the library. Peanut loves them and even Wingnut gets sucked in once in a while. The Witches was especially well times at Halloween-time and they loved Matilda. It's been a while since we read Charlie. Perhaps I should pull that one out again.

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