My cousin was babysitting the kids recently and when I got back, I asked, “What’d you guys do?”
“We read Gothic novels!” exclaimed Primo/
“Reeeeeally?” I asked my cousin.
“Yeah, we were talking about where the Frankenstein story came from –“
“Mary SHELLEY’S Frankenstein,” Primo interjected.
“And I told him about Gothic literature and he was interested so we read about it on Wikipedia,” she said.
Give the internet credit where credit is due.
"What did you learn about it?”
“Well,” said Primo. “Gothic novels are very tragic and usually someone kills someone else and there is a lot of revenge.”
Pretty spectacular babysitter I’ve got, huh?
So, a few days later, we were plodding through an Easy Reader – not Mittens, thank you very much, I think it was from the Dancing Dinos series, in any case not the most enthralling material – and I pointed out to Primo that the more he practiced, the more choices he’d have about what he could read.
“Before you know it, you’ll be reading Frog and Toad, and Magic Tree House, and stuff like that,” I said, “And by the end of first grade, I bet you can read Ramona Quimby.”
“And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?”
“Will I be able to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by the end of first grade?”
“Oh,” I demurred, “I doubt it. I mean, that’s really hard. A lot of adults have a hard time reading it.”
He looked crestfallen. I reconsidered.
“Well, who knows?” I said, “You’re a smart little boy and I bet if you really put your mind to it, and practice super super hard, you might just be able to read some of it.”
“You mean I can read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by the end of first grade?” he cried jubilantly.
I love how he specifies that its Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein he’s referring to, not a knock-off or lesser iteration but the real deal.
“Um, I bet you could. If you try really hard. Some of it. Why not?”
That night, where it is usually a striggle for him to read three pages in his Easy Reades, he read five entire books. He brought the books to bed with him. He was a man with a mission. Its waned a bit since, but his goal – however lofty—is pretty great incentive.
I, do though, really hope it’s the sort of thing he forgets about, by June. Or that he makes major strides with the reading. Because from What’s That Mittens? to Frankenstein, well, its quite a leap. But, as the song says, don’t stop dreaming about tomorrow.