Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It ain't nothin' . . .

I'm pleased to announce that Devyn spent most of Family Day weekend with her head in a book.  I wondered if that was ever going to happen because she seemed uninterested in reading on her own beyond leafing through works of nonfiction (and, yes, books of the Star Wars franchise). That particular weekend marked a change in Devyn's relationship to books.

As glad as I am that Devyn's appreciation of reading has deepened, and that I can pinpoint a dot on a graph and say where and when it happened, I'm disappointed that it's the Junie B. Jones series that she has chosen. (Coincidentally, I'd been searching earnestly for a series that might be a good fit for her and I think I found one, but more about that later).

Why the distaste? Junie B.'s command of English grammar is awful. It's not to say that I'm incredulous of a six-year-old actually speaking or writing without knowing or using every rule of grammar; it's just that Junie B.'s language seems unbelievably poor. I've tried to recall Devyn's use of language at this time last year; except for the use of "good" in place of "well" at times and a tendency to use adjectives in place of adverbs in general, Devyn (and her friends) spoke as if they grasped most of the rules. (Ironically, I objected very strongly to the clipped, precise, use of language in the dialogue of Beezus and Ramona, which Devyn and I read a few months ago).

At any rate, issues of suspending disbelief aside, my just-more-than-slight concern with the series has been that my daughter would get the message that it's fine to speak like Junie because it's funny or because it seems like a viable alternative to what Devyn has learnt to this point . So, I've been hoping that Devyn -- who is bright and clever and has a good sense of humour -- would find Junie B.'s manner of speaking funny but unacceptable.

Wouldn't you know!  During the time -- long ago -- when I'd started this post, as luck would have it, Devyn bounced into the room and I had to take the opportunity to ask her:

-- So, what do you think of the Junie B. book? I see you've been reading it.

-- I really like it.

-- What do you like about it?

-- I like her dictionary; it's black. I like the pictures. I like the glasses. I like the writing, too. I think it's great, even better than mine. [Ed. By writing, I'm pretty sure she means the child-like printed text of Junie's diary.]

-- What do you think of the language?

-- What do you mean?

-- Do you think that she uses words properly?

-- No, not at all!

Here, fortunately, she laughed while furrowing her brows (which seemed to mean "As IF!") and I could breathe again because, in fact, she did find the character's use of grammar funny and unacceptable.

Then she skipped out of the room trying to decide how to wear her bangs the next day as I shook my head and smiled. I'd worried for nothing. As she was leaving, I looked at her pigtails -- at the back of her head, not at the sides, and lower down her head, too -- and I realized how much more mature she seems these days.

Each stage of the girls' lives, though predictable as developmentally-appropriate achievements, is unique and brings with it a refreshing newness that I sense in nuanced behaviour: it promises greater, unforeseeable things and delivers self-knowledge on my part as well as excitement about the future. I love the small but greatly significant changes that I see in Devyn. I love the surprises like the one just described. That one just made my day.

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