We are still in full swing with reading chapter books together. At the moment we are working on Farmer Boy as a family (the Slovak has gotten sucked into Laura Ingalls and wants to know what happens!) and K and I are reading the first Lemony Snicket book when it's just the two of us. She likes to go sit in a coffeeshop together once in a while and read a chapter there.
Last week we read a chapter of Lemony Snicket while drinking our coffee and eating a cookie. We had some paper and colors with us, so K drew a picture of Count Olaf's mansion while I read. It is described as being large and extremely dirty, and there are a number of eyes (pictures and carvings of a single eye, which will probably become a plot point later on). K drew the mansion as described, including a few details about the kitchen, children's bedroom, and so on. Then she scribbled on it to show it is dirty. She also wrote the letter i (lower case i with a dot) several times in different places, so I asked what it meant. She said, "That's the i. You know, there are lots of i's there."
I admit it. I didn't tell her about the eye/i mix-up. It was too funny to allow her to fix.
We are also quite enjoying Farmer Boy still. Last week we read the chapter called Sheep Shearing, which is one of the ones that stuck with me as a child. I had to pause after each time I said the word 'sheep' so that M could say BAAAA! In a chapter on sheep shearing, that was a lot of repetitions. Then a few days ago we read the chapter where the main character makes a big black stain on the wallpaper of the parlor while his parents are away. As I read it, K's eyes got as big as saucers and even the Slovak let out a shocked gasp. It was gripping. :)
I wasn't sure that a five year old would be able to understand a historical book with as much unfamiliar detail as this, but it really holds K's attention. She doesn't understand it all, especially the farming details - I mean, the child doesn't know what a cassette tape or phone with a cord is, much less a plow - but she loves listening and asking questions. And making a mess and being afraid of getting in trouble for it, well, that seems to be universal.
K is full of questions about our reading even when we aren't actually reading. She often brings up questions during the day or at bedtime, showing she has been thinking about the stories. They are sometimes plot-related, something she didn't understand, such as why Almanzo's father doesn't trust him with the colts, but more often to do with character motivations and more theoretical issues. She continues to return to Harry Potter even long after we finished reading the first book, for instance, because it is full of rich characters and themes.
Here is an abbreviated list of questions I've had to answer in the last few months:
Why are Harry's aunt and uncle so mean to Harry?
Why are they afraid of magic?
Why did Harry's parents have to die?
Why did Voldemort want to kill them?
What is a prophecy?
Why did the Sorting Hat say Harry has a little bit of Slytherin in him?
Why did the Sorting Hat put Hermione in Gryffindor even though she loves learning like Ravenclaws?
Why did Ron say Hermione is awful?
Why do people in Harry Potter think that all Slytherins are bad if every House has some good and some bad in it?
Why is Mr. Filch so mean?
Why doesn't Mr. Filch like children?
Why can't he do magic?
Why is Draco so mean?
Why doesn't he like Muggles?
Why does he think he's better than other people?
Why didn't his parents teach him to be nice when he was little?
(repeat for every character in Harry Potter)
Why does Voldemort want to kill Harry?
Why does he hate Muggles?
Why does he want power?
Why do people choose to serve Voldemort when he is scary, evil and crazy?
Why do they care more about money and power than about other people?
Why does Voldemort want to live forever?
Why is he afraid of death?
Why does he like hurting people?
Why doesn't he have any friends?
Why doesn't he understand love and friendship?
Why did he grow up in an orphanage?
Why did his mother die?
Why did his father go away?
Why did his mother do a love spell on his father?
Please note that the answers to most of these questions are REALLY COMPLICATED. I have become a Slytherin apologist (they aren't all bad, all Houses have good and bad, imagine if your parents taught you from a very young age that you really are better than everyone else...), but it is very difficult explaining Professor Snape, for example, to a five year old. The anti-hero and spy is very difficult to grasp - he does one thing but thinks another. He is ugly but not evil. This goes against a child's understanding of the world.
And then most recently,
"Who did Harry get married to when he grew up?"
"Ginny, Ron's sister."
"And who did Hermione get married to?"
"Yes, in the books it was Ron. But I don't think she really would because Ron and Hermione would not be happy together."
"(disappointed groan) But I wanted Harry and Hermione to get married! Because I love them both!"
Okay, I could handle having given birth to a Gryffindor. I mean, she's five, right, so she'd fit right in. But a HARRY/HERMIONE SHIPPER? I have to work on this.
Coming up with truthful answers to K's questions that a five year old can understand can be a challenge, but I have to say we're having fun.