How Daddy’s reading comprehension skills died a slow death

Parents of multiple children can’t help but compare and contrast their offspring. I like to notice the ways my two boys are alike, because noting their differences often leads to the temptation to wish one could be more like the other, and if I’m going to pressure them to follow another child’s model, I want more well-behaved examples to point at.

There is a world of difference between the habits of a one-year-old and those of a four-year-old. Despite the age difference, there is one activity in which my boys take common delight.

Pulling out the bookmark

Colorful tabs were just made for pullin’.

Apparently, children of all ages find endless joy in pulling the bookmark out of the book their father is reading and replacing it between randomly selected pages in the book.

I am, or rather, I was, an avid reader. I used to tear through history books like there was nobody tugging on my arm or crying in my ear. I used to devour the classics like a man who need not condemn anybody to bed at an unjustly early hour, and then hear fifteen different appeals of the sentence as the night wears on.

One summer, I devoted a couple of months to reading Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy. If I tried to tackle those thousands of pages today, it would take me longer to read The Civil War than it took Lincoln’s reluctant generals to fight it. I would be a sorry historian to declare that The Civil War lasted eight years. But there were lots of extended breaks.

Civil War set

For childless readers only . . . unless you want to end up as just another casualty.

The irony is that before I had children, I didn’t rely so heavily upon bookmarks as I do now. Back then, I read so often that I could easily remember my place without a flag directing me where to resume. Now, I might go weeks between reading sessions. I need bookmarks not only to remind me what page I was on, but also which book I was reading.

There must be something about a little nub of paper or Mylar, or even a strand of lint, sticking out of a book that hypnotizes a child with the desire to pull it out. It does not matter how plain the bookmark appears, it still portrays itself as a magical tab that must be pulled. I might as well install buttons on my books and expect little boys not to push them.

In the end, a bookmark is a boring plaything. The boys rediscover this as soon as it is free of the book. Little brother might toss his disappointment to the four winds or hide it somewhere within the book, as the mood strikes him. Big brother has been yelled at enough that he covers his tracks by replacing the marker between pages, any pages.

Thus, I find myself wondering why some books are so repetitive, while others seem to leave huge gaps in the narrative. I’ve read a few books over the past several years in which the sequence of events was downright bizarre. Some men my age have mid-life crises. Not me. I’m just going through my post-modern phase.


26 comments on “How Daddy’s reading comprehension skills died a slow death

  1. Scott, This is too funny! I think it’s time to go electronic. LOL

    • I love my Kindle, but with my tastes, it’s often most economical to go with print. You should see my son stand beside me as I read my Kindle and wait for me to tell him he can push the Next Page button. I have helpers for everything.

  2. kelloggs77 says:

    Word. My finish time for a book nowadays is utterly embarrassing.

  3. I cannot bring myself to dog-ear a page, I see people do it all the time and you maybe strong enough to stomach it, but to me It is like watching someone breaking someone else’s arm. When my kids were younger they did the same thing to my bookmarks. Curious kids are smart kids, so you’re lucky that way.

  4. Traci says:

    Funny stuff. While I have no offspring of my own, during the school year I’m too busy reading what I’ve assigned the children to crack open my own choice. I read the classics . . . just the same ones over and over.

  5. ksujulie says:

    haha…I love this! I dog-ear my pages. I have Kindle as well but it’s not the same as a print book.

    • I can’t do the dog-ear thing. And the Kindle is good for some stuff, but not others. I guess it serves me right for leaving my books lying around. If only I could be trained to clean up my area when I’m done.

  6. My 9 month old has discovered the joy of removing book sleaves…and then folding them into unique little crumpled oragami attempts…

  7. Nathan says:

    I couldn’t have said it better! If it wasn’t for commuting on public transportation I would never be able to read (though I do manage to read half a sentence in bed before falling asleep at night…unfortunately it’s always the same half of a sentence!).

  8. Tom W says:

    Years ago when I managed a downtown bookstore customers would come in on their lunch hour read and mark their place for the next day. Some even used their business cards as bookmarks. This was in the olden days before bookstores doubles as libraries (no chairs). One guy was a real pain, not only did I remove the bookmark when he would leave, after a few days I removed the book. When he asked about it, I said someone bought it, then offered to order one for him. A 50% deposit in those days, he said “no thanks’

  9. Heather says:

    I have finally found a way to outsmart my little one. I have one “bookmark” that I leave sticking out of the book that I am reading, and he can pull out the marker as long as he puts it back in the book. I then have a “secret” marker (usually the book receipt) stuck into the page that I am currently on without anything sticking out. I get to know which book I was reading, AND know which page I was on. My little one gets the temporary fun of pulling out the bookmark. Everyone is happy. 🙂

  10. Awesome sense of humour – not just in the post but in your responses as well. Wish I could write like you. 🙂

  11. yearstricken says:

    Great piece, Scott. You make me laugh out loud. Your boys are preparing you for old age when you not only tell the same story over and over but read the same story over and over and don’t realize you are doing either of them.

  12. marymtf says:

    Oh, how those memories come flooding back! Now I’m all alone in my empty nest and can read as much as I like. Boo hoo.
    Now’s the time to start concentrating on reading to them. There are colourful bookmarks you can buy, not at all expensive. When you’re reading to your little ones, stop at an exciting part and show them how to keep place in their books so you can find where you are up to the next time you read to them. e

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