Two weeks ago, the course of study for Charlie (self-directed as it so often is) was evolution. By last week, he had quickly shifted to a survey on mythology.
Charlie: Greek mythology is the most interesting subject I’ve studied so far. I love the “Odd-Sea.” That’s a cool story.”
Cassie: The “Odd-Sea?” Do you mean “The Odyssey” about Odysseus?
Charlie: There are so many stories inside of it. The goddesses and the sirens who transfix the sailors so they die in oceanic storms, the sea monsters.
Cassie: Were you learning about this in school?
Charlie: No. This is my own research.
Cassie: Research. (Chuckle, chuckle.) What are you reading, Char, for your research? I don’t think we have a copy of “The Odyssey” in the house. Maybe there’s one in storage. It’s a really big book, Charlie. I’ve never read it all the way through…very hard reading. (pause) Are you talking about the books that Mrs. McTeague gave you before we left Montclair during second grade?
(I refer to a collection of books with shortened – extremely shortened – tales of The Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne, of “Magic Tree House” fame.)
Charlie: Yup. Those are the ones. I’ll read the real story someday when I’m older. I don’t care how big or long it is…because once I’m inside the story, I forget where I am or if I’m hungry or what’s going on around me. I love it when that happens.
Cassie: Me too. That is the secret magic of books…and once you’ve had it, you usually want to go back for more and more, right?
Charlie: Yea. But only if it’s a good story. Not all stories are good. You can’t make me read the stories that aren’t good.
Cassie: True. Sometimes you have to try a few stories before you find the one that hooks you completely.
Charlie: Yea…if I don’t like it by the second page, I’m not going to bother reading anymore.
Cassie: Really, only two pages? Well, sometimes you have to give it a few more pages, right? To really give it a chance?
Charlie: No way. Not me. I don’t give it a chance past the second page. I’m already almost nine years old…I don’t have time.
(Last night, I found Charlie in bed, reading/surveying/looking at Max’s Biology Textbook. He said to me: “I can’t wait ’til I’m ready for this book. Do you think I could be ready for it before high school? You know, I love science. This book’s going to be really good!”)