Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Departing the Text 101: Beginners Manual

While I have received some really nice comments to my blog entries there was one response to my "GoodNight Sweet Gems" entry that I want to respond to formally:  "Hi-- I am very unsure of what the phrase actually means: putting the book away? best j.

While I am not sure if "j" was joking or not, I figured it may be prudent to respond.  So often we make assumptions that just aren't valid and I am always the one saying, "don't assume anything!"


So first, a definition:

departing the text (v): requires an action or actions in which the reader and/or audience take a mind trip, in this case when reading.  These mind trips are best used for savoring language, humor, and for battling angst and idleness. It requires taking a moment and relating what is read (or said or viewed) to past memories and experiences, in an effort to get just a little bit more out of it.

Please note the background to this blog.  It's intention is to simulate the above definition visually!

So, dear readers, with this definition in mind, below is a beginner's manual, if you will, on how to best depart the text when reading aloud.  Note, that you can and should substitute the word "reading" with "viewing" and "listening" when appropriate.  All are most highly recommended.  Also note that these directions have been written for reading aloud with your child, but feel free to improvise at will.

How to Depart the Text:

1.  Select a book.  Selecting books to read to your child can be a tough. My recommendation is select a book with rich illustrations/photographs or with compelling text that your child is already familiar with.  While you can also select a 'new' book, experience has shown me that often kids are anxious to hear what happens next in a story they aren't yet familiar, with and so are not as eager to depart the text.

 [Note:  Don't push departing the text.  If they don't want to, just wait for another opportunity OR depart the text  after reading the story.]

2.  Select a comfy spot to read.  Comfort is essential!  Maybe you want to cuddle, or just find a place that is cozy and induces mind wandering.  Fluffy pillows or a nice warm lap are both recommended.  Opus' bunny jammies were a nice touch in Goodnight Opus, but you may not want to depart the text at bedtime (see note).

[Note:  I would not depart the text at bedtime as it will stimulate attention, memory and problem solving all of which are not necessarily desirable when you want the kids to go to sleep so you can get on with your life.]

3.  Choosing when and how to departMy mind naturally wanders and so departing the text is a knee-jerk reaction for me.  My advice here is to relax and as you come across an illustration with interesting detail, or text that reminds you of something your child can relate to and have fun talking about, depart!  You can depart with word definitions too, but they are not nearly as fun as departing with rich detail or something to think about.  Berkeley Breathed books are rife with detail in the illustrations and these were favorite 'departing' books in my family.

4.Departing doesn't just mean talkingWhile "departing the text" often means talking about something interesting, it doesn't have to be.  It could involve singing, dancing, and banging out a beat.  It always involves brainstorming and creativity.

 Examples of singing and dancing: 

Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger  comes with music for the Abiyoyo song.
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester has great parts to sing and cheer.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has two pages to rumpus.

4.  Frequency of Departures:   This is totally your call.  It will depend on how much time you have for reading and departing.  It also depends on how long your child can sit.  Know, however, that the more you do this and the longer you do it, the longer you are increasing your child's attention span and ability to sit.

5.  Have fun.  The main thing is to have fun enriching the reading experience and your time together.

So, please let me know how this works out for you, and let me know what your favorite read aloud books are for departing the text.  Happy travels to all!


  1. I love your suggestions to depart from the text. It's really about relating to the text in various ways. It makes reading a throughful, rich experience - and FUN!

    When I read with my 3 year old at bedtime, I have remind myself that it's not about getting the book read, it's about the whole experience. You see, he asks questions constantly throughout the reading. "What is this mouse doing?" "Is he going to jump down here or go that way?" "Why?" "Do you see that cat?" "What is he going to do?" "Why will he chase the mouse?" etc. The text on the page isn't about the mouse or the cat! But a good book with rich illustrations has a much deeper and extensive story, sometimes with secondary stories told in the illustrations. That's one way I know it's a really good book for him!

  2. I love what you wrote. It is so true! I also love what you and your 3 year old are doing. It really is about the experience, the interacting with each other and with language and illustrations. It is all about growing. And, it seems your 3 year old is off to a fantastic start.

    I am curious, what are your favorite books? What are his?

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I look forward to hearing a lot more about your, your 3 year old and your text departures!

  3. To add some context to this post, I'm actually one of the daughters mentioned in the previous blog.

    You talk about departing the text, and I'd like to strengthen the connection between this post and the previous one where you noted that every child is different.

    This post demonstrated that there are many different creative ways one can depart from the text. I hope this isn't too obvious, but the frequency and nature of your own departures should be largely determined by your child's strengths and weaknesses. As a parent, you can cultivate your child's strengths while also adding a facet to the reading process that may make a more difficult text "easier". I, for example, am fairly musical: when I was young, I would hum songs while eating and as a young adult have partaken in multiple musical activities and groups ranging from piano to vocal to percussion. As someone who is musically inclined, I don't remember the plot of Abiyoyo anymore, but still remember the entire song. For this reason, I remember the book fondly.

  4. I read to my boys all of the time. Currently, we are reading about the Monster Squad. We depart from the text often in an effort to let imaginations create what we think the result will be. This is fun leading up to the end of the chapter!! Thanks Meryl!! See you on She Writes!! Adrian

  5. I'll talk more about this later, but trying to anticipate the ending or what comes next is a great way to strengthen problem solving skills! It also helps to anticipate words when your kids read to themselves. It is a great way to depart the text!

    Thanks for your comment, Adrian!

  6. We have always read to our children, and one of our favorite things to do was make up our own stories for the pictures. The kids loved doing that (some more than others) and now I have budding writers living with me. so, I guess we did this in our own way. We still sit at the dinner table and make up all kinds of things--jokes, what if stories, all kinds of tall tales. some might say we are a family of liars. :) I just think we have great imaginations and we like to share.

    Great post! I'm adding it to my friday follows list on my blog. I hope it sends a few more people your way.

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog, www.currentmom.com and suggesting I visit here. What lovely suggestions -- I'm already doing some of these (singing, dancing, talking) but never thought of it in the framing of departing the text. I look forward to reading more!