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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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reading aloud

Blair Waldorf, aged 5

I love modern libraries, especially the children’s section. Because it’s not all about keeping the peace anymore, but about fostering the love of books and learning. Gone are the bad old days of musty books and foreboding quiet corridors, the stereotypical spinster librarian hissing “SSSHHH!” if you so much as thumbed the pages too vigorously.

Our local library has a wonderful children’s section with new books, touchscreen activities, and a generous stage and play area where babies and children can romp and read with their parents and carers.

And it’s not quiet.

I keep forgetting that we have this wonderful resource a mere 15 minutes pram-ride from our home. And I’m so glad I remembered it this week. When Arddun and I were feeling better one afternoon after lunch, both of us took a leisurely stroll and spent the hour before her nap time reading books and hanging out with the other kids. And she, social animal that she is, was just rapt with the amount of activity around her.

Anyhoo – Mother’s Day is around the corner, and we just happened to pick up a storybook about a little girl who goes shopping for her Mother’s Day gift. And I had expected something along the lines of the protagonist buying her mother Coco Pops instead of Coco Chanel, concocting homemade perfume out of squished up dandelions, and making a complete hash out of the greeting card and the stationery cupboard.

Apparently, this author has other ideas.

Storybook of protagonist buying Mother's Day present from Tiffany's
Yes, Arddun. Tell Daddy that only Tiffany will do.

She also went to Godiva for chocolates in the page before her visit to Tiffany & Co. The lady in blue is her nanny. I kid you not.

Yes, we do live on the Upper East Side of Canberra… and that’s where the similarities end.

To be a reader breeder

ElilyMommy is a voracious reader, so it’s really no surprise that she’s read more books about Mommydom than I can count on all the fingers and toes in my household (formed and forming). And while I’ve had difficulty digesting some of the other volumes she’s passed to me because she has infinitely more patience than I do with long-winded authors (Tony and I keep hollering GET TO THE POINT! at Babywise, for instance), I’m absolutely loving The Read-aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

Basically, it’s a book about instilling the love of reading in a brand new human being – and it’s chockful of statistics and case studies┬áthat wow and inspire the likes of Tony and I. We’d both decided ages ago that our child’s love of electronic nannies (television shows, computer games) should never trump the love of reading – mostly because we have a hunch about the benefits of reading as we’ve each been its beneficiary. This book turns the hunches to ah-hahs. It also tells us why we should start by reading aloud to the child, pretty much the moment she can hear you.

Which, for Blobette, would be right about now.

It’s weird reading to your own belly. As much as I feel I should sit and read “Where’s the green sheep?” to my protruding middle torso, I fear it gives me the giggles and the distinct sense of You’re on Candid Camera. But when I was nine years old, I loved my borrowed copy of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes so much, that I made myself memorise the shortest tale. So much so that I can recite it to this day.

So this is what Blobette’s been hearing from me. (Might be slightly inaccurate, as I’m typing this from memory. Haven’t bought my own copy yet.)

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went to knock on Grandma’s door,
And when she opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin.
Then Wolfie said, “May I come in?”

Poor Grandmama was terrified.
“He’s gonna eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right –
He ate her up, in one big bite!

But Grandmama was small and tough,
And Wolfie cried, “That’s not enough!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve gotta have a second helping!”
Then added, with a frightful leer,
“Therefore, I’m going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”

In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

“Grandma… what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see you with.”

“Grandma… what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear you with.”

The Wolf sat watching her, and smiled.
He thought, “I’m going to eat this child.
Compared to her old Grandmama,
She’s going to taste like caviar!”

Then Little Red Riding Hood said,
“Grandma, what a lovely, furry coat you have on!

“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf.
“Have you forgot?
To ask me what big teeth I’ve got?
But ah, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway!”

The little girl smiles. Her eyelid flickers.
She takes a pistol from her knickers.
Aims it at the Wolfie’s head,
And bang, bang, bang! She shoots him dead.

A few weeks later in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change – no cloak of red!
No silly hood upon her head!

She says, “Hello… and do please note
My lovely, furry wolf-skin coat.”

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