My New Way of Thinking About What to Read Aloud

Lately I've been compelled to broaden my horizons when it comes to choosing a bedtime story. Last week, my daughter (age 5) asked her dad to read the back of the package from her favorite toy in lieu of a bedtime story.

On the plus side, there was plenty of text to read, various characters' names and categories, other products to buy and so forth. On the negative, it felt a little weird, and, to be honest, like we would be comprimising some element of our integrity that we couldn't quite name.

But she asked, and we figured, reading is reading, so he did it. And he did it again for the next two nights, at her request.

I'm fine with that decision now (and it makes a funny story!) because I don't want to judge her interests. (This really made me put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.) After all, we know from the Kids & Family Reading Report that 89% of kids ages 6-17 say their favorite books are the ones they've picked out themselves. So what if I expand that a little to include packaging materials?

My daughter has always been interested in this kind of text. For the past two or three years she has always paid close attention to signs, especially the ones in parks and around swimming pools that list all the things you can and can't do, with pictures. At our favorite national park, which has strong river rapids and a powerful waterfall, there is a large and exciting sign about all the dangerous things that could happen if one were to get too close to the waterfall. My daughter loves to have us read it to her, and we then discuss various features of the park. She even asked my husband to take a picture of it so they could look again together later.

To me, this is all reading, even if it isn't books. Later in life, she will encounter the concept of "text types," or the various kinds of texts one might read like plays, poems, speeches, articles and so forth. But these are our little-kid text types. And so for now, I'll read whatever she asks me to.

photo via the author