Wow! Here it is almost the end of February and nary a blog entry from me this month. Where does the time go? Well, after my experience yesterday at our granddaughter's pre-school, I can't let the month end without telling the story of my telling of the story in their classroom.
There I was, book in hand---"There's A Spider In My Sink!" The teacher showed me to the lone chair reserved for the guest reader. No, it wasn't a nicely over-stuffed reading chair you might find in a vintage library or coffee shop---just an aluminum frame with a vinyl-covered seat. But with 25 four-year olds gathered around on the floor before me, the nature of the chair didn't really matter.
My granddaughter had been practicing her introduction of "Grandpa Bill" for several days. I could hardly keep my mind on my purpose that morning as I listened to the best introduction I have ever received. Then the story telling began.
Because my children's books are written in rhyme---at times a bit quirky and odd---I felt compelled to tell the story, to talk the kids through it, rather than read it. After all, I didn't want the kids to lose interest just because the words might not make sense. Well, my concern was misplaced.
Yes, the telling of the story and showing all the wonderful illustrations went very well. "Do it again," they shouted! But when I started the re-telling, a little boy in the front called out, "Just read it!" Having my doubts about comprehensiion, I started slowly. But the combined look on the sea of faces---OK, so maybe it was a small pond of faces---was enough to tell me the rhyme was working.
It wasn't the words themselves but the same-sounding endings, the rhythm and beat in each line and the colorful pictures on the pages that captured their imaginations. That's when I realized the words in the story join the illustrations to literally create action from still life in the eyes of a child. Mouths agape, eyes moving in darts and dashes, they were soaking up every word, putting their own spin on the word-art images. For the brief moments we lingered on each page, the story before them was all that mattered. The transfixed eyes of a room full of children is a gift like no other for both writer and artist.
This is where the rubber meets the road on a journey of the imagination. Read a book to a child and you'll see what I mean. If you're lucky, they may take you along...