Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodnight, Sweet Gems!

I would love to hear what you think about when you read the words, "departing the text," because I am not sure we think of the same things.  That's the beauty and challenge of language.  Sometimes words and phrases can be so pregnant with imagery and meaning. In raising effective communicators and lifelong readers, our kids need to be exposed to the nuances of language and the absolute joy and fun playing with language can bring.

I first heard  "departing the text" years ago when reading Goodnight Opus to my kids.  Breathed's book opens with Opus, a quirky penguin in bed wearing his 'pink bunny jammies' while his Granny is reading his favorite book,  Goodnight Moon, for the two hundred tenth time. (Sound familiar?)  And as Granny pauses ("for a snooze and a snore") Opus departs from the text and says "goodnight" to, among others, the peculiar purple monster under his bed.  Together, the monster and Opus say "goodnight" to mythical and historical figures around the world (and beyond).  They visit Abe Lincoln and take a dip in the pool (the one in front of the monument) and later meet the cows in the Milky Way (to name only two visits).  And, what's really cool is that all these departures are connected  to 'collectibles' Opus has in his bedroom but never really noticed before (including the monster).

The beauty here is that are so many levels of meaning and departure.

First, there's the allegory:

How many times do we go through life - on one path or another, and fail to notice the gems all around us?  How often do we read and not fully appreciate the music and rhythm of the words?

Then there's the literal enrichment:

Reading aloud is enriching and important.  It's not just for the soothing voice or the cuddling.  It's about hearing  the rhythm of the language and the exposure to different words, worlds and ideas, all of which are integral for building essential skills such as attention, language, and problem solving (to name a few).  Plus there's the social dimension where relating to stories and characters in a book makes it easier for kids to address and build possible solutions for their own issues.

Now think about the added value of departing the text when reading:

For one, it's not the same boring book for the two hundred tenth time.  The characters and objects in the pictures can take on a whole new life and meaning.  When you depart the text when reading aloud, you are stretching the sitting time and concurrently holding and stretching your child's attention.  You are problem solving and brainstorming, and playing with words and imagery.  And, you are building relationships, sequences, patterns.  All of these skills are so important for school and for life, and we'll be revisiting them frequently in the blogs.

So as you depart this text, look at those gems all around you and let them take you to magical, mysitcal places far and near. But, before you go, I'd love for you to share a comment.  What do you think about when you read "departing the text?" 

Thanks.  Happy journeys, and hope to see you soon.


  1. I remember reading that book to my kids. Loved it. Never tried departing the text. Will try it out.

  2. This is a really fantastic post. Very deep for me at this hour of the night! Anyway, it took me quite some time to realize the real value of reading aloud to my kids and picking books with a beautiful, rhythmic text, but now I really do try to focus on that when selecting things to read with them. We love "departing the text" and often use favorite stories as jumping-off points when we're out and about and see something that reminds us of something we've read. My 5-year-old now does her own version of this - she's a pre-reader and often uses the pictures in books, and her memory of the stories, to make up her own and "read" them to her brother.

  3. Thanks so much for the comment. You addressed some really important issues that the blog will follow. One the importance of your pre-readers "reading" to their siblings. It is great for both of them. It builds relationships, literacy, memory, and comfort with language. I will talk more about this and I hope you follow. And, please feel free to make suggestions.

    By the way, what are your favorite read aloud books?

  4. I agree with you that "departing the text" (a phrase I'd never heard, by the way) seems like the perfect way to read with a child! It's so much fun to get to what they're thinking and let their creativity out of the bag. I have always loved doing that with my own kids. Takes longer at bedtime, but it's so worth it! (And even better for movies, too, especially now that we can pause them.) Great post, Meryl!