Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Four Year Old Reader's Thinking

My 4 year old son, Cole, absolutely loves The Story of Ferdinand by:  Munro Leaf.  Lately, Ferdinand's story has been read nightly in our house.  I remember when my daughter went through this stage, reading her favorite picture book over and over.  Some nights can be rather mind numbing reading the same pages over and over. 

As my son began this obsession with the docile bull, I paid close attention to his observations.  He always notices the illustrations, and makes a lot of meaning from what he notices in them.  He began with fairly general questions.  "What's a cork tree?"  "Why does the big Ferdinand have horns, and the little Ferdinand doesn't?"  After reading 3 or 4, he started noticing more specific details such as the characters expressions in the pictures, and asking questions about the background illustrations.

Tonight, Cole proved that he not only knows the story by heart, but he also proved, that even after more than 20 readings -he is still growing his thinking about Ferdinand.

A Glimpse of Our Conversation...

"Cole, what do you want to read?"  I call while Cole brushes his teeth.  Before he even answers, I fish out The Story of Ferdinand  and hop onto his bed. 

He runs in yelling, "Ferdinand!"  We curl up with the book between us to read.  "Once upon a time in Spain,"  I begin.  He listens intently, finishing the words on each page when I stop reading.  He's completely focused on the illustrations. 

Suddenly he stops me, noticing the bandages on the other bulls as they look at a poster advertising the bull fight in Madrid, "What happened to his leg?"

"He probably got hurt when he was fighting with the other bulls,"  I remind him. 

"Oh, let's go back and see the picture of when they are fighting,"  he instructs.  We flip through the pages, looking for the picture of the little bulls fighting.  When we get to the page, he analyzes to see if he can see the exact fight that would have caused a wound to the back leg of the solid color bull.

"No, go to the page when they are older, " he continues, determined to make sense of the injured bull in the picture.  Finally, we find the page with the older bulls.  He looks closely at the scene, but doesn't see proof to confirm our thinking that the bull was injured while fighting.  His mind quickly shifts from the bulls fighting on the page to a small object in the background.  He asks, "What's that Mama?"

I pull the page closer to me, and I honestly had no idea what the object was.  I turned the page this way and that, tipped it toward the light, and finally said, "I don't know, Cole."  Without missing a second, he begins digging around under his pillow and pulls out his bug magnifying glass. 

"Let's use the magnifying glass to see it,"  he demands as I look at his determined face with amazement.  Who keeps a magnifying glass under their pillow?  I actually froze briefly before looking through the magnifying glass, and desperately wanted to run get the video camera.  But I didn't, and continued to investigate that strange object with Cole.  We finally determined that it was a "round scooper thing", and continued on through the book. 

Cole stopped to analyze the bee's expression after Ferdinand had crushed him, wondering why the bee looked like that.  He wondered how a branch from the cork tree was flying across the picture of Ferdinand's hooves.  "Did Ferdinand kick his hooves up into the tree?" 

He asked if the final picture of the flower was the same flower that the bee was sitting on when Ferdinand sat on him.  He laughed at how crazy the men in the funny hats looked, and said that he liked their hats.  I asked him why, and he said that their hats looked like the hats that artists wear.  He shook in fear when the Matador came into the ring, and told me, "The Matador kills the bull at the end of the bull fight, but not Ferdinand because he doesn't fight.  He just wants to smell the flowers."

I could tell more and more of Cole's observations, but I mostly want to remember what I thought about after reading with Cole.  I thought about how often I read a book just once, and never go back to it.  I wondered how many more things I would notice if I spent as much time in my books as Cole has with Ferdinand.  I thought about all of the other books that I have read to my kids and students, and I wondered if I rush them through without really taking the time to discuss what is going on in the pictures.  I wondered what kind of a reader Cole will be when he begins to focus on the print rather than the illustrations.  Will he continue to analyze those miniscual details as he has in Ferdinand's story?  How can I help him to maintain that focus -that pure determination to understand every detail?  I noticed how my own excitement about reading grew through this one small conversation with my four year old son, and wondered how many more things my fourth graders notice that I could discuss with them. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, Michelle. First of all, I'm so glad you were able to capture it in writing since you weren't able to grab your video camera. Second, truly...WHO keeps a magnifying lens under their pillow? That made me laugh. Third, this post is such an important reminder at the power of the re-read (and the re--re-read and the re-re-re-read). Kelly Gallagher talks about the first read as a "first draft" read where we read to get the basic idea..to figure out the plot, who the characters are, note the important events. But on the second, third, etc.. read, that is where we gain deeper meaning. It's where we revise our thinking; it's where we notice the details, make meaningful connections, and wonder beyond the text. Cole's got it. He's a deep-reader already. :)