Market Research: A 4-Year-Old's Thoughts on Stories
Alright, so since I’m home with my toddler and my preschooler for two weeks before the school year starts, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do some in-home market research. I asked each of my book-loving boys questions about reading, books, and stories. All quotes are word-for-word responses, no priming or prepping. I wrap up with some take-away thoughts. Enjoy! 😊
How old are you? Four four four. [I have no idea why he said it 3 times…]
What’s your favorite book? NO! [Okay, I clearly need some warm-up questions to prime the pump…]
Okay, what’s your favorite dance move? [demonstrates spider walk/breakdancing mashup; note that throughout this interview, he was doing various dance moves...no sitting still for this little guy!]
What’s your favorite color? Ummm…green. [That's a first. He always says blue or orange...I guess he just loves the whole rainbow!]
What are your favorite books? Library books. [So I guess we don’t need the ~200 books on our shelves, then…ha.]
What kind of library books are your favorite? A lot of pictures. And new. With lots of different colors.
What are your favorite stories? Stories about monsters and things that I like.
What kind of monsters? All monsters.
What should a storybook monster look like? With spikes.
What has to happen in a story to make it really good? There needs to be really good things. And really bad things. Where the bad things fight the good things. [He’s got the need for conflict down!]
What happens at the end of a really good story? All the bad guys become good, and they do good things. [Yes! Redemption!]
Do you have one specific book that’s your favorite? Um, no. All the books. Well, I like Harold. [“Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson]
What do you like about Harold? The crayon. And what he does. [Additional prodding for details was unsuccessful…]
Do you like it when a book rhymes? Yes.
Why do you like rhyming? It’s fun. Because you have words that you say, and then you say another word that sounds the same. Like Gun and Run. Or Gun and Bun. [*What is it with little boys and guns?? I promise, we have no books with guns!]
How many books do you think you read in a day? 35 [more accurate estimate: 12?]
Do you like it best when you read the books yourself, or when someone reads to you? When someone reads to me. [Note: his “reading” is looking at the books on his own, which he does every morning before “wake up time.”]
Who is your favorite person to read to you? Visitors. Like Grandpa Larry. [Gee, thanks, kid.]
Do you think it would be cool to be able to read books all by yourself? Yes.
Do you want to learn to read? No. I want you to always read to me. [Aww…]
How old are you? I’m two! [Proudly holding up two fingers, of course.]
What’s your favorite book? Book about poopy! [we’re potty training!]
Do you have any other books you love?The mouse book! [“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond]
Who is your favorite person to read to you? Mommy! And Daddy! [Aww…]
And that’s about the extent of the 2-year-old attention span…
A Few Thoughts
First, this was fun! As a researcher by profession, these chats really whet my appetite for data gathering. Although with my experience being in interviewing the 65+ set, interviewing preschoolers would definitely stretch a whole different set of researcher muscles!
Second, I was impressed at how insightful the preschooler was—there was no prepping or prompting here, and his awareness of conflict, resolution, and rhyme was amazing. And for a kid who would much rather run and play than answer my questions, his engagement in this conversation is a testament to his love of books and stories.
Third, it emphasized for me the importance of the read-aloud—even once my preschooler can read himself, I know we’ll continue reading together for some time, as it is a great time of connection and bonding that we have as a family. This also helps me keep not only the child in mind as I write, but the reader parent as well--it's got to appeal to both!
Finally, both interviews highlighted the staying power of the classics. Both specific titles mentioned are books that I read and loved as a child. Now if only I could get my children to stop drawing on the walls and giving cookies to the neighborhood rodents (squirrels...I like to think we don't have too many mice roaming around...)!
Happy reading, happy writing, happy last days of summer!