BOX 4.6 Baby Reading

Sixteenth-month-old Julie is left alone temporarily with a visiting grandfather. Wishing to distract the child from her mother’s absence, he starts “reading” a picture book to her. On each page is an animal and its “baby.” Julie shows interest as a spectator until they came to a picture of a kangaroo and its “joey.” She quickly says “Kanga, baby.” Pointing to a shirt with Kanga and Roo (from Winnie the Pooh), she says again, “Kanga” “baby.” Grandfather repeats each utterance. Then he says: “Where’s Julie’s Kanga?” knowing that she has recently received a large stuffed animal from Australia. With great excitement, Julie pulls the stuffed animal over to her grandfather and, pointing to the book, says “Kanga, baby,” then points to the stuffed toy, “Kanga” and to the joey in the pouch, “baby.” Communication had been reached with much laughter and repetition of the Kanga/baby routine. Even at the one-word utterance stage, children can “read,” “refer,” and “represent” across settings (Brown, personal communication).

from Twenty-five to Thirty-five…And my ambition now (is it a vain one?) is that it will be read by Children aged from Nought to Five. To be read? Nay, not so! Say rather to be thumbed, to be cooed over, to be dogs’-eared, to be rumpled, to be kissed, by the illiterate, ungrammatical.

A preeminent educator, Dodgson had a pedagogical creed about how “Nursery Alice” should be approached. The subtext of the book is aimed at adults, almost in the fashion of a contemporary teacher’s guide; they were asked to bring the book to life. The pictures were the primary focus; much of the original tale is left unspecified. For example, when looking at the famous Tenniel picture of Alice swimming with mouse in a pool of her own tears, Carroll tells the adult to read to the child as follows (cited in Cohen, 1995:441):

Now look at the picture, and you’ll soon guess what happened next. It looks just like the sea, doesn’t it? But it really is the Pool of Tears—all made of Alice’s tears, you know!

And Alice has tumbled into the Pool: and the Mouse has tumbled in: and there they are swimming about together.

Doesn’t Alice look pretty, as she swims across the picture? You can just see her blue stockings, far away under the water.

But Why is the Mouse swimming away from Alice is such a hurry? Well, the reason is, that Alice began talking about cats and dogs: and a Mouse always hates talking about cats and dogs!

Suppose you were swimming about, in a Pool of your own Tears: and suppose somebody began talking to you about lesson-books and bottles of medicine, wouldn’t you swim as hard as you could go?

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