If You Give a Moose a Muffin…

Book by the amazing Laura Numeroff

Book by the amazing Laura Numeroff

On Mondays, I read children’s books.

My partner co-conspirator is an impossibly tiny first grader, with perfect braids and miniature sparkly Toms shoes.  In the winter she walks toward me in turquoise Ugg boots.

Our matchmaker is the Reading Corps for the Detroit Public Schools.  [http://detroitk12.org/readingcorps/]

When I pick her up in her classroom, she brings work assigned by the teacher to get her reading at grade level by June.  In her small hand is an easy reader book, or a word finder, or sentences to practice.  We walk upstairs to the bare room assigned to the Reading Corps, talking about her weekend.

One of the deep pleasures of motherhood, for me, was reading to my daughter.  When the stresses of the day had worn us out, we would read piles of books.  At bedtime, I was always a sucker for “one more.”  When we needed something to do, we went to the library.  As she got older and could read to herself, I read to any other kid I could get to sit still.

There’s lots of research about the impact of reading to children – about language acquisition, the number of words they hear before they talk, about learning how language is put together, and I believed it all, but mostly we read for fun.

As far as I can tell, no one has ever read to Taylor.  She says there aren’t any books at her house.

Her parents are busy with younger siblings, and maybe they’re not readers themselves.

The first week, when we finished our assigned work, I got a picture book out of my tote bag, and asked if I could read to her.  The cover picture of an African-American girl made her whole face light up.  The next book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, made her grin at first, and then laugh, a sound I’ve come to cherish.  Now I pick books that I know will make her laugh, just for the joy of hearing that sound from a serious girl with a serious life.

We hurry through our assigned work so we can get to the tote bag of books.

The learn-to-read books for first grade are written by experts, well-chosen to teach certain sounds and words, but picture books have a magic they lack.  Richer, more complicated words.  The flow of a story.  The charm of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.  Illustrations that reveal something new every trip through the book.

It’s all new to Taylor, and with her, I see the power of books for a young child.  Always surrounded by books and readers, I never saw it so clearly before.

We walk back down the hall to her classroom, her sparkly shoes twinkling, and I wish I could come every day.