Today I wrapped up a longtime babysitting gig, at least as a regular thing. (They're moving; I'm going full-time at the bookstore.) When I first inherited the family from a Simmons classmate, S was three and a half. She was a Frog and Toad fan with a hard-working imagination, fond of making up stories. One of my first memories of her involves carefully crossing "the deep... old... cold river," a puddle whose name I suspect was inspired by We're Going on a Bear Hunt.
A was eight months old. We read a lot of Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle board books, and she did a lot of playing with the pages and not much letting me finish them. In those early months, she started crawling unprompted into the rocking chair we used for reading, books in hand, and while she was learning to talk, we developed a routine of pointing out anything in the illustrations that she could name. "Moooooon" was a favorite.
Three years and a zillion games of "I'm thinking of a character" later, S is still reading Frog and Toad. But now she's the one reading it aloud. She still makes up stories, but now when there's writing to be done, she does much of it herself. She takes the big parts in staged readings of Elephant and Piggie books and does a mean analysis of the themes in Yertle the Turtle. In short, S is going to knock the socks off of first grade.
A, too, is complexly into stories. Like S around her age (almost 4), she's discovered that books can deliver a safe thrill, so she's been on the lookout for "scary" books. We spent much of the past two mornings in the fairy tale section of the library, reading and rereading version after version of Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. Once she was familiar with the latter. she started skipping ahead: "I want to get to the witch part." It took convincing to get her to spend any of our four hours together at the playground while there were books to read.
And K, who was born this June? He's already got S reading to him.