“Otto honey, come sit down and listen to the rest of the story.” I patted the spot next to me on the couch, smiling at my four-year old son. We had been reading Thomas and Percy and the Dragon, one of his favorite Thomas the Train stories. When Percy the Small Engine suddenly saw a very frightening dragon, Otto leapt to his feet in excitement and started racing around the room.
“Come sit down, sweetie,” I repeated, a little more firmly. He obediently plopped back down on the couch, but was soon back on his feet, jumping up and down. I sighed. Apparently, story time was over. I closed the book and was about to suggest a different activity, but some instinct made me pause.
I looked at Otto. I saw a sweet, eager little boy whose eyes were bright with excitement. I saw trust, openness, vulnerability, presence.
What would happen if I just let him be? I decided to find out. I opened the book again and continued reading. He kept running around, but despite his movement, I noticed he was tracking closely. He asked questions about the story, made predictions, offered surprising insights.
When we finished Thomas, he begged for more stories. We read for what seemed like hours, Otto coming to snuggle up and look at the pictures, then leaping to his feet to run in circles around the living room.
I relaxed and fell into this rhythm with my son.
Fast forward eight years. Otto is in 7th grade. He is a voracious devourer of graphic novels, and reads at nearly a college level. To my delight, he still lets me read out loud to him. Also to my delight, he still leaps to his feet when the story takes a dramatic turn. It’s just part of the evening story time ritual: Snowy the dog snoring gently on the couch, Etta cozy in a warm fuzzy blanket on the big easy chair, and Otto pacing, walking, running — fully engaged and listening intently