Some nights I just don’t have it in me. I can’t do it. It’s been a long day, I’m tired, my eyes are red, maybe I have a headache, and I’m not in the mood to read to my daughter. I have to though; otherwise, I’d have to listen to her cry for an hour. I don’t have a choice. What can you do under these circumstances? There’s only one solution: compressed reading time.
I’ve discovered that you don’t have to read the entire story to your child. You can read half of it, maybe less, and still get the point across. I started with every other page to see if she would notice. When I confirmed that was a go, I tried every third page. Still good. Now I have it down so that I can practically summarize the stories off the top of my head. I’ll give you a few examples.Green Eggs and Ham go bad: I'm not taking a bite. Would you?. Click To Tweet
The Cat in the Hat
Let’s start off with that Dr. Seuss class The Cat in the Hat. I say “classic,” but for every parent who’s ever read it over a hundred times to their kid, reading it even one more time is the equivalent of being stretched on the rack. Here’s how I work through it:
Start with the setup. Sally and Aloysius are sitting around the house watching the rain come down. (I know, his name isn’t Aloysius. He has no name, but I give him a name anyway, the sillier the better.)
Where’s the Mom in all this? I always ask myself. She just skipped off on a shopping spree, leaving her two children home to fend for themselves? Mommy Socialite has an important society luncheon with the ladies? La dee dah, off she goes.
Important note: don’t waste too much time with these asides. They take longer to ponder than you should spend on the story itself.
Skip to the “BUMP” where the Cat enters. You practically have the whole story now. Add a few Things and you’re practically done.
Then you have the fish. Page ahead to his first appearance and his objections. I like to give him a stuffy English accent. Make him a real fussbudget.
Now, page forward to the fall where he makes a mess. “Look at me now.” Crash!
Whoops, there’s a big mess now. It’s time for the “fun-in-the-box” page. Shuffle ahead to find that. Thing One and Thing Two pop out, they fly a kite, bump into a few things, and make a mess.
Can you blame them? Their home is a crate. Who is this Cat anyway? Some kind of sadist? I expect to hear about him on the nightly news one night:
“This just in. A large cat known for his top hat and ability to rhyme has been arrested for confining two tiny creatures of unknown origin in a crate. On their release, one of the creatures had this to say:
The Cat in the Hat
Beat us with a bat.
He fed us a rat,
So we wouldn’t get fat.”
This story could turn into a crime of the week easily.
Anyway, show a few pictures of the mess, then move on to Mom’s arrival home. What to do?
Flash forward to the Cat imprisoning the two Things again. Sure, they go without a whimper, a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, poor Things. He cleans up, and all’s fine. The end.
This works equally well with another wordy tome, Horton Hears a Who. I’ll bet you could knock out either in a few minutes, and get right back to those Star Trek reruns. You can thank me later.
Green Eggs and Ham in Two Minutes
Here’s the compressed version of another Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham:
Page 1: “I am Sam.”
Page 2: “Sam I am.”
Already I’m losing patience. Let’s get to the good stuff. I flip to page 4: “Do you like green eggs and ham?”
There you go, Sam. That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Does this nameless, shaggy creature in a top hat like green eggs and ham? I flip the page: “I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.”
We’ve gotten to the bottom of it. He doesn’t like it. He’s dropped the gauntlet, and who can blame him? I don’t know much about food preparation, but if I see green on anything not a vegetable, I’m immediately thinking mold. How long have these eggs been sitting on the counter? Ham with a side of mycotoxins? What rhymes with botulism, Dr. Seuss? I’m not trying them here or there or anywhere.
Would you be so bold
As to try it with some mold?
Will you give it a tiny lick,
Even if you’ll get quite sick?
Will Sam be able to convert him? I have to say, I hope not. I thumb through the pages: house with a mouse, box with a fox, boat with a goat. He doesn’t like them, Sam, get over it.
I skip ahead and turn to the big climax. Shaggy’s under water. I turn to my daughter and make a face like I’m drowning. “Glug glug glug.”
Page 56: the big try. There’s no words, so I hold it up. He likes it! Hey, hooray. I breeze ahead.
Or is it? Does Shaggy wind up getting his stomach pumped? Decide for yourselves.
Cinderella in Ten Seconds or Less
Lest you think this works only with Dr. Seuss, allow me to take you through another fairy tale, one that’s been around for a few hundred years: Cinderella. Here goes the “compressed reading time” version:
“Cinderella had a wicked stepmother, who punished her until her fairy godmother turned her into a princess for a night so she could attend a royal ball. Before she changed back to a servant, she dropped a glass slipper, which is how the prince found her again. They lived happily ever after. The end.”
Okay, maybe that was about fifteen seconds, but you get the picture.
And by the way, who goes around wearing glass slippers? What if some clumsy oaf steps on her toes during a waltz? I see a severed toe and lots of blood. Do you think Prince Charming is going to want a toeless princess? I don’t think so.
This is one fairy tale that could get ugly quickly (not uncommon in this genre). Let that be a lesson to all young women: don’t wear glass slippers. Or Birkenstocks. I think you’re better off toeless than wearing Birkenstocks. If I were a prince and I had to choose between a toeless princess and one wearing Birkenstocks, I think it would be the end of the royal bloodline.
My Blog’s Compressed Reading Time
Okay, admit it. You’ve skipped ahead, probably read every other paragraph, maybe just the headings. You’ve missed all the good stuff! Now, go back and read it over, every word, just like my daughter makes me when I try to get away with what you just did.
The truth is I wouldn’t miss a second of reading time with my daughter. If I had the chance I’d read to her for the next twenty years, unless maybe if she started wearing Birkenstocks. Anyone else feel the same?