Of Books and Letters
One of my cousins had a little girl over a year ago. He sends me photos and updates about her regularly and I am (finally, at long last, and way overdue) packaging up some books to send her. They are old books of Charlie's, story books, nursery rhymes, one with geometric shapes and patterns. All were read to Charlie at some point or another; I can't say for sure about Charlie himself reading them. I can count the number of books on one hand that have interested Charlie enough for us to come upon him turning the pages on his own and it's been many years since he did even that.
And we have a lot of books here, shelves and shelves in the dining room, the living room, and all around, not to mention what's in the Jim's and my respective offices. Some of their shelves do contains picture books, board books, those DK books with the crisp and clear photos, story books. I've had a hard time letting go of any of them, always hoping that someday, one day, Charlie could read them.
I remain hopeful, for all that Charlie will be 13 in May and still has yet really to read a book. He used to turn the pages of Goodnight Moon while reciting what each page said, but I'd have to say this was mostly due to his having memorized much of the book, thanks to multiple readings—this was the one book he regularly wanted to hear read out loud—and he had a tape of the book that he (and we) listened to over and over. Efforts to interest him in his other books, and in ones from the library, were not successful and became increasingly trying (and a lot of pages got ripped and taped up, leading to a phase of Charlie being exceedingly fascinated with asking me to apply wads of Scotch tape on the torn paper).
Needless to say, Charlie's recent willingness to write has been something heartening. I've been sometimes going over the words and phrases on a growing pile of pads and pieces of paper, a couple of days after he's written them. When I've sensed Charlie getting agitated because we can't find a video or toy he wants to see on the Internet, I've pointed to a phrase we wrote together: "We can't find it." Somehow seeing the words, and the words he wrote, seems to help. Maybe putting the threatening notion of "can't find it" down on paper–giving it concrete form—is making the whole idea of "can't find it" seem more manageable, less amorphous and scary?
Charlie may not be reading words but he seems to have much more understanding of what words, and in particular the written word, can do. Monday night I tried a variation on writing a word and having him copy it; I dictated "M-o-n-d-a-y" and he wrote each letter, slowly and clearly listening. As he wrote, I thought about how "Monday" in our household has become more and more a day lacking the negative connotations popularly affixed to it. Charlie looks forward to Monday because it means back to school, back to routines, back to a predictable and familiar way to fill the space of a day after the looser-ness of Saturday and Sunday.
While last Monday got a little crazy (I forgot to put Charlie's bookbag in the car; it was the first day Jim both drove Charlie to school and picked him up, and that I worked late; the weather brought a downpour, raging wind, and warmer temps all in a few hours), this Monday was almost clockwork. Charlie was up by 7.30am. He and Jim dropped me off at the train. Charlie was happy going into school, suddenly upset in morning circle, soon over it, and the aide told Jim when he drove up at the end of the day that Charlie'd done very well that day. Jim and Charlie went on a long walk and were still out when I came back home. Charlie was still game to go out for a ride and to make brownies. Between sessions on the computer, we talked about how, in addition to being Monday, it's a new month, February.
One of the books I'm sending to my cousin's little daughter is a Miss Spider ABC book. I'd hung onto it, wanting to keep it until Charlie knew every letter. He does still say "p" when he sees a "b" or a "d" and types "t" when I say "i." We've got a way to go with Charlie forming the round and straight parts of those first three letters (and with a couple other letters like "y" and spacing his letters out) but he definitely knows you dot your i's and cross your t's.
And he does, yes, know his ABC's.
It feels really good, at long last, to say that.