For months I asked “Where has my baby gone?! He’s been replaced by a toddler!” Well, now I’m asking, “Where has my toddler gone?! He’s been replaced by a preschooler!”
At the 2.5 year mark, my bookworm seems to have left behind the label of toddler for the sophistication (and mood swings, let’s be honest) of a preschooler. We’ve decided not to send him to formal preschool but instead are working on some homeschool preschooling and lots of learning through play.
As I’m working on being more intentional with our days, I’ve started instituting a bit of DEAR time: “Drop Everything And Read!” The idea of DEAR time is as old as I am, lovingly described in Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona Quimby, Age 8 as “the best part of the day” (p.42) because Ramona enjoys the peace & quiet of reading anything she wants, “even mysteries” without being graded or having to write a summary.
When I taught at the elementary school level, we implemented The Daily 5 with our youngest students, including pre-readers, which included in the daily routine Read to Self. The model teaches students that there are three ways to read to yourself: read the pictures, read the words, or retell the story. Clearly my 2.5 year old will be working primarily on reading the pictures, or perhaps retelling the story from memory with his beloved favorites.
Here’s how I began DEAR time with Preschool Bookworm- it was all very natural, and I followed his lead. I knew Preschool Bookworm was ready for some DEAR time alongside of me when I started noticing that at the conclusion of an independent playtime session, the only things he had taken out were books. I also would find him alone with his books and could hear him naming things in the pictures or pretending to tell the story to his stuffed animals, especially those that he has memorized. (My decision to implement DEAR time coincided with my yearning for a bit more time to read during the day myself! Win-win!) I should point out that DEAR time is meant to be a shared reading time for all, so grown ups must read, too! I resist the urge to tidy up, check facebook, switch the laundry, etc., etc.! It’s really and truly a protected time to drop EVERYTHING and read.
I started with just 5 minutes and shared my excitement to get cozy alongside of a grownup book. “You can read one of your favorite books while mommy reads one of hers! I love reading my books quietly in my head.” He asked a few times, at various points, for me to read aloud his book, but with modeling and redirection, he got the idea and got lost in his own book. I made sure to cap the early sessions when he was still engrossed in a book. Gotta leave ’em wanting more! (“DEAR time is over for today, so feel free to put your book away when you’re all finished.”) I am excited to be able to show him that grown ups crave reading time, too.
Now a few weeks into this routine, Preschool Bookworm is loving DEAR time! He have both gotten lost in our books and forgotten the clock, stretching our reading time to over 30 minutes a few days running. Of course we still have plenty of read aloud times all day. This hasn’t replaced those times but added a different layer of reading to our day. Some days are more successful than others! If he’s not into it on a particular day, we move on, no worries! There’s a lot of flexibility and seizing the moments when I can tell he’s ready for some downtime with a book. The last thing I want it to be is a dreaded part of the day. I want him to consider it a treat, and so far when I declare “It’s DEAR time!” he is excited to snuggle in the chair next to mama with his books.
We probably have DEAR three times per week. During the course of a typical DEAR session, Preschool Bookworm probably reads half a dozen to a dozen books, all self-selected. I will hear him naming things, saying phrases he remembers, and sometimes just turning the pages and looking at the pictures. The same books he chooses for family read aloud time he typically chooses for DEAR time.
I’m excited that DEAR time has become a special bonding time over books at our house! We haven’t given it a go while Daddy Bookworm is home, but he is super jealous so we might give that a try this weekend!