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A Pattern Language for Reading Books for Your Children

YUKI hiroshi
originally written in Japanese.
English translation by HIRANABE kenji

This is hints on how to read a book to children.


   The Favorite

... "Read me a picture book!" Your child asks you falteringly(he can't speak clearly yet). This is a moment before he goes to bed, the time you read your child to sleep. There are a lot of picture books you bought to him.

* * *

How do you choose today's book ?

Little children like repetition. Adults get bored with ordinary days and repetitions, but children don't. Morning comes, and night comes. Morning comes, and night comes. Children accepts and taste these ordinary repetitions even with surprise and joy.

Children don't ask for information in the book. They taste repetition everyday in this Moment to Share and rejoyce at the time to spread there Wings of Fantasy.


Select a "usual book." The favorite book, with soft repetition and with joy born from the repetition. Select such a book and repeat reading it.

* * *

It would be nice to read the usual, favorite book Slowly and with appreciation. No need to read dramatically. Quietly but from the bottom of you heart, read The Favorite ....

   Wings of Fantasy

... Most adults do not read books aloud. It's embarrassing sometimes and you may be bored with the simplicity of picture books. Even if you selected The Favorite, you have to read for your children until they grow up to be able to read themselves.

* * *

How shoud you read picture books to your children ?

Picture books are not just books for them. They are entrance to a different world, a magic gate, Alice's glass, or the Wardrobe to Narnia. It is your voice that opens the door and leads children to a land of fantasy, to a land of dream.


When you open the book, rememberthat you are opening the door to a different world.

* * *

Since it takes time to spread big wings, Read Slowly. Never rush. Don't fly by yourself, but fly with your children, spreading the wings together, and remember that you are to have a Moment to Share with your child. ....

   Read Slowly

... Most books for children are short. If you read silently, it takes you no time. Even if you read aloud, it takes adults very short time.

* * *

Picture books are too short, aren't they ?

Adults are used to read books for getting information or knowledge. To get much information rapidly, you have to read fast and a lot. If you take the same attitude to picture books, you finish them in no time.

Picture books are also books, but they are not for information or knowledge. They are for the Moment to Share with your child and for spreading Wings of Fantasy in your mind together.


Read slowly. Word by word, carefully pronounce them from your heart, take "ma"(space of time). Don't handle your book roughly, turn pages slowly.

* * *

During your reading, children sometimes speak to you. When it happens, you Listen to the child. ....


... When you Read Slowly The Favorite, children sometimes ask you questions or speak to you. "Why does the glass speak ?" "The magic terrifies me"... Of course while she is speaking, you cannot continue reading the book.

* * *

What should you do if the child speaks to you while reading books ?

A common mistake is to scold the child. "shut up!", "Quiet!" You are just about to spread the Wings of Fantasy. Your loud voice ruin the moment.

Children speak to you because they are interested in the book, interested in your talk, and because they actively take part in the story. Most of all, you should remember to cherish the Moment to Share.


When the child speaks to you, stop reading for a while and listen to her voice. Accept what she says, how she feels and then continue reading. Even if she doesn't make sound, listen to her breathing.

* * *

In order to accept their reactions, too, Read Slowly. A parent reads and a child listens. The child reacts and the parent receives. In the course, you two will find yourself in the world of the story where you spread your Wings of Fantasy widely. ....

   Ask like talking to yourself

... It is important to Listen to the children when they speaks, and the parents can also speak to the children.

* * *

How should you speak to the child, as you read picture books ?

If you are too conscious of educating children by reading books, you will sound inquisitorial.

"What is this animal", "What is that vehicle?", "You said 'uh' ? it's not 'uh'. it's a bus. bee-you-es!", "How many time should I tell you!" "Why are the dwarfs crying? why? Do you understand ?"

It is sad that the Moment to Share becomes examination, test of memory, pronunciation training...

Of course you need softer talks, gentler askings.


Ask like talking to your self. "What is this animal...?" "What is this vehicle...?" "(you hear 'hu' and) yes, it's a bus..." "Dwarfs are crying... " You take time after you ask children, but you don't have to wait for the answer. Of course you should not force them to aswer.

* * *

So that you can insert askings in inervals, Read Slowly. Ask like talking to yourself, and Listen to the words the child speaks back. Like this way, cherish the Moment to Share with your child. ....

   Moment to Share

... Sometimes it doesn't work even though you usually read books happily. The child is in a bad mood, the parent is in a bad mood. You are bored with The Favorite, you cannot spread your Wings of Fantasy.

* * *

What should you do when you cannot read books well ?

For some reason, no matter whether you know the reason or not, the gear sometimes doesn't turn around smoothly. Maybe you and the child are both feeling awkward.

If you insist on reading just because you do it everyday, the awkwardness grows to become anger or tear, and you will ruin this precious moment.


Even if you cannot read books, don't be angry. And, don't quit the habit of reading right away. Sing happy songs together, tell a story of your childhood. Without adhering to books, spend and cherish the time comfortably together with your child.

* * *

Children yawn and get sleepy, even when you read books happily and they listens to you happily. When it happens, tryPrayer and Lullaby. ....

   Prayer and Lullaby

... At night, while you are reading books to your child, he starts yawning. little kids will say "I'm getting sleepy." It's in the middle of the story, but he will fall asleep by the time of its ending....

* * *

What shoud you do when children get sleepy halfway through?

Don't stop reading suddenly. They have spread their Wings of Fantasy and are flying in the sky. Don't do the emergent landing.

Through reading the picture book, you and your child was able to have a Moment to Share. But as a matter of fact, our everyday life itself is a series of great moments of time. Great moments given by God. Thank God for His protecting us today, and lead the child with silent joy to the land of sleep.


If the child seems sleepy, fade out your voice silently and close the book slowly. And do the "prayer of gratitude to God for this day."

Thank you God

for this day.

A Happy day for my little ***.

Thank you God.

Thank you God.

After the prayer, now Lullaby....

* * *

While you pray and sing a lullaby, you are possibly getting sleepy, too. Go ahead. You may. You also are a beloved child of God. Good night, have a good dream. ....

Copyright (C) 1999,2000,2001 YUKI hiroshi.

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