Flat Stanley

I am a proud mama. My daughter has recently graduated to chapter books. With more words than pictures. And more complex story lines. And real chapters! I have to say, this is an exciting milestone in my life, although it’s probably about par-for-the-course in hers.

Like many of you, I am sure, my childhood was dominated by books. My parents used to yell at me to put away my book at the dinner table. I made my way, surely and methodically, through the children’s room at our local library. I looked forward to my airplane rides to Thailand, so I could read for 24 hours straight and no one would tell me to stop.

I’ve always wondered, will my children fall in love with words in quite the same way? Will their imaginations take them to lands no airplane can reach? When they pain of real life becomes too much, will they escape into stories and forget their problems, for just a little while?

I hope so.

A brand-new world is opening up for them, and I get to go along for the ride. Our first foray into chapter books is FLAT STANLEY, by Jeff Brown, which is the story of a boy who is flattened to half an inch thick when an enormous bulletin board falls on him. I’ve learned so much by reading this book out loud.

I’ve learned about world-building. At half an inch thick, Stanley can do loads of cool things other ordinary boys and girls can’t. He can slide underneath doors. He can be lowered into a sidewalk grate to retrieve dropped jewelry. He can even be placed into an envelope and be mailed to distant places, in order to avoid the cost of a plane ticket.

I’ve learned the importance of chapter hooks. Since these books are meant to be read out loud by parents a couple chapters at a time, the story must be interesting enough to hold the child’s attention from day-to-day. (Although not so interesting it has the child refusing bedtime and begging for more!)

I’ve learned that the joy is in the details. One evening, it was late, and I was skipping over a few words to hurry along the story (which I was re-reading for the second time). After Stanley slid into the envelope, I read, there was still room for an egg-salad sandwich and some milk. No, Mommy, my daughter corrected me. It’s a toothbrush container full of milk. Excuse me, I apologized, smiling. My dear daughter had just shown me first-hand that it’s the details that make a story come alive!

I expect I’ll learn many more lessons as I guide my children through the exciting world of chapter books. And I couldn’t be more excited.

What about you? Were you a bookworm as a child? What do you remember most about your favorite childhood books? What have you learned from re-experiencing the wonder of reading?