I’ve been reading Sweet Dreams Lullaby by Betsy Snyder to Isabelle every night since late December. That’s about 100 nights’ worth of the same bedtime book! Recently, I’ve noticed she has started to anticipate certain pages. She approximates the word “splash” once she hears it at the end of one of the pages. She kisses the air when she hears “a bedtime kiss from butterflies.” She approximates “moon” just as I’m about to read it. And together we blow gently after I read the word “breeze.” While I have the book memorized and don’t even need to look at the pages, I still do since I don’t want to miss a word in case she wants to add to her repertoire on a given night.
One of Isabelle’s favorite daytime books is My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin. It’s a delightful picture book about a little girl who pretends to be several different women who changed the world (e.g., Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell). Near the end of the book Isabella decides to be her mommy, who is the woman who fosters her imagination and nurtures her soul throughout the book. By the end of the book she goes to bed content to be herself, “the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was.” If ever there was a book that epitomizes the way I want my daughter to view herself and the role models I want her to have, THIS IS THE ONE. (And it doesn’t hurt that the main character’s name is one letter off from Isabelle’s!)
So, getting back to saying the words she knows in this book. This week, we’re working with My Name is Not Isabella. When we reach a word Isabelle knows (or rather can approximate), I pause and let her say it. Sometimes I have to prompt her by pointing to the picture. For instance, she now says “beh” for “bed,” “buh” for “bus,” “mama” for “mother” and “mommy,” “kuh-kuh” for “cookies,” the latter of which all appear multiple times in the book. Also, every time we reach the point in the story where the little girl says “‘My name is not _____!’ said the little girl,” I shake my pointer finger back and forth and Isabelle says “NO!” (and that “no” gets progressively louder as the book goes on). I know it’s my own child, but I have to say, it’s pretty cute to listen to.
I’m hoping that having Isabelle fill in the blanks with words she knows will encourage her to become more interactive with books as I’m reading them aloud. There’s no pressure involved with this since My Name is Not Isabella is a book she loves. It’s simply a way to get her saying words she already can say so she can feel like a successful partner when we read books aloud together.