So, a few days ago I published a post on the origins of my love for reading. Regardless of how it has fleshed out into adulthood, something I know for certain is that my love started early, and my memories of it are visceral. Considering that I work with children on a regular basis, I decided to indulge my curiosity and see if any of them are budding bibliophiles like me. The kids I see regularly run the gamut when it comes to ethnicity, interests, schooling, and socioeconomic class; I will undoubtedly have very different conversations with each of them.
To start things off, I chatted with a little girl I babysit, G. G is 7 (and a half!), and the oldest of 2 girls. She lives in an urban area with her mother and father, and is a native English speaker. Both her parents are college educated, and her mother has a Master’s degree. G attends a private school where those younger than 9 aren’t assigned homework outside of reading. She enjoys gymnastics, music, and tennis, among other things, and is currently a little obsessed with the movie Trolls.
The following is an interview I conducted with G one evening while babysitting. I encouraged her to provide honest answers, and she seemed quite excited to help me with my grown-up ‘project’. My questions were tailored to her age group, and I did not push for greater depth in her responses when she seemed unable to provide it. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity, and this interview is published with the full permission of her parents. I don’t think it requires much commentary; G is fully capable of speaking for herself:
S: Hey, G. So, do you understand why I’m going to be asking you these questions?
G: To help you with your project. Are all the questions going to be about books?
S: (laughs) Most likely. Is that ok?
G: I guess so.
S: Awesome, thanks. So do you like reading by yourself or being read to more? Or do you like them both the same? Why?
G: I like them both the same. I like it when people read to me because I don’t have to read all the words — like spelling things out? And why I like the other one is because I can, I don’t have to– it’s quieter, and I don’t know, sometimes it just feels nicer.
S: Do you think it was hard to learn to read by yourself?
G: No, not really.
S: Did you like learning to read; was it fun?
G: Yes, because once I knew how to read I could read all these books and I got to learn about famous people and cool things. Like, I got to start reading biographies and chapter books and stuff like that.
S: Is there a book you got as a present that you remember being really excited about?
G: Um, Harry Potter? That was a book I got for Christmas.
S: Which do you like more? Books with pictures on every page or books with pictures on only some pages?
G: I kind of like books with more pictures.
S: Do you like books that have characters a lot like you, or books that have characters who are very different from you?
G; I sometimes like them like me, because I can kind of understand what they’re talking about more. I get confused sometimes when books are about people who are different than me.
S: Do you like reading about kids or grownups more?
S: If you didn’t have to read for school, do you think you’d still read as much as you do?
G: Yes. Plus, if I didn’t have to read for school, I probably wouldn’t know how to read.
S: (laughs) True! Have you ever though about writing your own book?
G: Yeah. Actually, we’re doing it right now in school. We’re writing small moments, and books, and poems, and things like that.
S: That’s awesome. When you read, do you like reading about girl characters or boy characters more?
G: Girl characters, because it’s kind of more interesting. You know more about girls and you can kind of connect with the book. And sometimes you can’t really understand what boys are doing or why.
S: Have you ever read a book about somebody who’s not from America?
G: Is Harriet Tubman from America?
S: Yes, but good thought!
G: I think I have, but I can’t remember anything else really.
S: That’s ok. Do you like books where the main characters are animals or people more?
G: People, probably.
S: What about books that are about specific adventures? Do you like them better than books that are more about normal life?
G: Yeah, I like books where they go on adventures. But I like Ramona, too.
S: Me too! Alright, G, if you were in charge for a day at a book making factory or publishing house, what would you do? What kind of book would you publish?
G: I’d make a book about a super secret-service ice cream cone on wheels with an alien inside. I think it was a spy. (Editor’s note: It should be noted that while G and I were talking, she just happened to be drawing a picture of what I assume was a super-secret-service-ice-cream-cone-on-wheels. With an alien inside. That may or may not have been a spy.)
S: That sounds amazing. I’d definitely read it. Are you more excited to read a book if you know that there’s a movie of the book already?
S: Ok, adding on: if you’ve already seen the movie, would you still read the book?
G: If it was really good movie! Like, I’d read a Trolls book because I wanna learn more about the secret cloud guy. I think the cloud guy was maybe my dad’s favorite.
S: Definitely. Do you ever use books to learn how to do new things?
S: Like what?
G: Like finger-knitting, and my Easy Bake oven, I guess. But, maybe I just look at the book and my mom is the one who really reads it, sometimes.
S: Do you like toys that go with books?
G: What do you mean?
S: Like, for example, the books that sometimes come with American Girl dolls.
S: Do you think that makes you want to read more, that you have toys that match the stories?
G: I guess. But I don’t think that I wouldn’t read something if it didn’t have a toy.
S. Okay. When you’re at the school library, or the big public library, do you see a lot of books with girls doing cool things? Going on adventures like you were talking about earlier?
S: Do you think there’s more books with girl main characters going on adventures? Or boy ones? Or do you think it’s the same with both?
G: I think there’s more with girl characters. Books where they go on adventures and do really cool things, like…For example, like, somebody who goes on an adventure across the sea on a boat. I think there’s more adventure books about girls, though, kind of.
S: Do you ever decide to read adventure books with boy main characters?
G: Sometimes I’ve made the choice to read adventure books about boys. I didn’t really like them, but kind of. Yeah, kind of.
S: Would you say that your mom and dad read aloud to you the same amount? Or does one of them do it more than the other?
G: The same, I think.
S: Cool. If you could choose, what would you say is your favorite book in the whole world?
G: How about…um, I have a lot of favorite books. Harry Potter, Nate the Great, and…what’s another one, I feel like I have it right on the tip of my tongue… Oh yeah, Heidi Heckelbeck! One, Harry Potter, I just like that it’s about a wizard, just because it’s kind of cool and it’s an adventure. Even though it’s about a boy, I like that it’s about adventures and it’s kind of cool and weird. I like Heidi Heckelbeck because it’s interesting, and I think I could be her friend. Nate the Great…I like that because it’s a mystery, and it’s exciting, and you want to hear the end.
S: Do you ever skip to the end of the book and read the end first?
G: No! Do you?
S: Well, I don’t now, but I definitely did when I was a kid. I guess you’re more patient than me. Do you have any questions for me?
G: What was your first book that you ever read?
S: So the I think the first book that was ever read to me was probably… maybe it was Goodnight Moon? But the first book I remember reading on my own was The Boxcar Children — have you read those? It’s a series about 4 brothers and sisters, and their parents die somehow — I don’t remember, exactly. They decide that they’re going to go and try and find their grandpa, who they know is alive but they’ve never met. And if I’m remembering it correctly, and I might not be (you might have to read it to see if I’m right or not), they — on their way to find their grandparents one of the sisters gets really sick, so they stop their adventure in this old abandoned boxcar. Do you know what a boxcar is?
S: It’s the part of train where the stuff they’re moving is put, not the people. So it’s shaped like a big box, and they stack smaller boxes in it — like packages, or mailbags, or whatever. So it’s really big and empty with really high ceilings on the inside, but it doesn’t have seats or anything.
G: But what’s inside it?
S: Nothing, it’s empty. So, they had to go find — like from the trash — things for a bed and a chair and food to eat, and medicine and all that stuff. And they actually made it on their own for a while, but then they were found and rescued, and they went to live with their grandpa, and they end up being super happy and then there’s a bunch more books where they go on many more adventures and solve a bunch more mysteries. (Editor’s Note: I’m fairly certain this is not actually an accurate summary of The Boxcar Children. You can check out more about them here.)
G: I think I’ve checked that out!
S: Oh, have you read it?
G: Well, no.
S: (laughs) That’s ok! My last question for you is, do you feel like learning to read made you feel differently about yourself?
G: I don’t know…well, actually I do. Because everybody else [in my class] knew how to read, and when I started reading…well, a lot of my class was already practically grown up, and once I started to read it made me feel grown up too.
S: Are you happy that you can read by yourself now?
S: Do you have spelling tests in your class though?
G: No! Well, yeah, we actually kind of do.
S: Do you like them?
G: No! I like reading, though.
Thanks so much to G and her parents for their participation!
Day 18: January 18, 2017