Last week we agreed that he will start reading J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, the Sorcerer's Stone.
This time, I took a different approach. I don't care if he reads for fifteen minutes. I care about what he understands in that span of time. Don't care about the number of pages, I care about the learning that takes place. I want to hear his interpretation of what he reads. He's a very good reader--don't get me wrong. But he's a mechanical reader.
I want him to appreciate the little details that go on in writing. I want him to appreciate the magic of words.
This is what we do: He reads a couple of paragraphs and then starts explaining it to me. I must say, it is the cutest thing. He gets a bit theatrical about the whole thing. At times I just watch him trying to explain it to me.
So I do what I hope most would. I ask him, "What do you think the author's trying to tell you?" or "Why did she say that?" or "I don't understand what he means. Can you explain it to me better? With your words?"
In that, a great lesson was learned. The lesson was not for my son, but me. What stuck out was one particular line:
Professor McGonagall pulled out a lace handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes beneath her spectacles.I asked my son, "What's happening here?"
"She's crying," he said.
"How do you know that?" I asked.
"Because she's doing what someone who's crying would do."
"But the author didn't say cry," I argued.
"But she showed me with the thing that the professor did to her face."
BINGO. This, in a nutshell, is the age-old conversation of showing vs. telling. It's really that easy.
Ms. Rowling could have said:
Professor McGonagall cried.Boring. We got some much more color with the actual text. She uses a "lace" handkerchief, not a cowboy bandana! She dabs, no trombone honk!
Often I wonder, "Will my reader understand what I'm trying to say? Maybe I need to be obvious."
My seven-year-old got it. Anyone can get it.
I've been fairly savage about eradicating "tell" scenes when I see them. I am sure, I still have some in ACES and in my new novel. Every time I see them, like a cockroach that won't go away, I zap it.
My story is better, my writing is better, and most importantly, the reader sees the images, depth and texture that I see.
Fight the good fight!