Reading – Learning to read
One of the other things I’m learning by reading stories to my children is more about how we internalize the artificial process of reading books. At the very basic level, the ability to enter into the reading process, and to filter out the artificial externalities of the physical book, the typeface, the binding (not to mention the environment around you as you are reading) is every bit as important to the creation of the vivid and continuous dream as is the skillful use of narrative conventions. Have you ever not been able to read a book, for instance, because the typeface was simply distracting? Or find that you simply can’t read in particular environments? Sadly, most of these externalities are also outside of the control of the author.
But as I said, reading to the kids provides a window into the process of learning to ignore these things. Daniel, who’s two years and two months old now, is currently obsessed with the gutters in the books I read to him. Every time I turn a page, especially to one with an illustration spanning, he jambs his finger into the binding between the pages and says, “What dat?” Apart from being really annoying, it points out how he’s not yet able to shut out this accident of how books are made and focus on the story. The experience is one undifferentiated exploration of the sounds, the pictures, and the physical object of the book. By four-and-a-half, however, Olivia–who is just now beginning to read individual words–has internalized the conventions of reading to the point where she is able to take pleasure in the joke of Tigger getting out of the tree by sliding down the block of text, shouting “That’s not fair!”